I own a business based in the UK called Ginibee Ltd, which is about helping people take their first steps in job sharing. I was inspired to set up Ginibee to help create more accessible employment choices for people, as most of us, at some point in our career are likely to need something outside of the full-time job or no-job spectrum.
What is Job Sharing?
A job share is where two people share full responsibility for the delivery of one role and its results to an organisation. A job share is one role, one set of performance criteria, one shared identity created by two people. It’s important also to understand that, contrary to initial perception, job sharing isn’t an option that involves less commitment.
In fact, a successful job share is quite the opposite; it’s a way of life which enables a number of priorities to be more equally balanced. This will undoubtedly involve compromise and anyone embarking on this strategy must be prepared to give a little in order to create the life balance they will receive.
How I Came into Job Sharing
My life change began in 2009 when, with 13 years experience in various commercial management roles, I had my first child and began my role as a mother with zero years experience! Naturally, I wanted to be able to grow in both roles and so needed to create more time for my family as well as continue with my career. I was fortunate at the time to be employed by a company that was happy to find a way to accommodate my circumstances. I had a senior role in product management which was, for all intents and purposes, a job share. It worked successfully for over two years, delivering results for the organisation and giving me more time with my family as I worked remotely for three days a week.
In 2012 when I had my second child, the company was restructured to be sold and the role was made redundant. I was thrust into the job market as a well qualified, experienced career woman and mother, looking for a job that would enable me to balance new priorities.
My Experience Trying to Find a Flexible Job
From a position of unemployment, I had two options to pursue: working full-time in a career or working full-time as a mother. Neither of these paths would allow me to fulfill both roles to the extent I needed. Despite the perception of there being part-time career roles, in reality, I didn’t find any in my location that were in my field, and I felt powerless to find another solution.
In 2012, 49 percent of women gave birth in their 30s with more established careers. With 5.3 million working mums in the UK alone, I wondered, “Where are the accessible flexible career options that are available to anyone?” This is why I started Ginibee: It’s where job sharing starts. Not every “career role” can be scaled down to part-time, or be a remote role, but nearly every role could be shared.
The First Steps of Job Sharing: Learning to Walk
Job sharing is a win-win for organisations and individuals, yet it remains the least popular of the flexible working options, with only 17 percent of organisations offering job share roles. Organisations who have tried job sharing claim its benefits far outweigh any risks, which raises the question: What are we scared of?
One of the unique aspects of a successful job share is the blend of social and professional interaction. For a job share to work, there needs to be a complementary match of professional skills between the people sharing the role, but there also needs to be a complementary blend of goals, values, and work ethic, and a unique way of sharing tacit knowledge which is developed by the partnership. So, partners need to make an effort up front to learn about each other. This social-professional interaction can mean stepping out of our comfort zone with a stranger and asking questions of each other which we often don’t know about ourselves—a bit like therapy!
For example, to understand someone’s work ethic you need to make an effort to get to know them, their attitude towards work, what they think about work, how important work is to them, what makes them stressed or satisfied, and what working enables them to do in relation to their life.
In a traditional work role, you wouldn’t necessarily know this about your colleagues—or consciously about yourself—but in a job share set-up, it’s an essential part of building the foundation. Essentially, you coach each other by talking about your career. This type of social professional interaction can only be a good thing in the workplace because it increases self awareness and personal development.
The reality is, job sharing is ingrained in our lives but we don’t refer to it as “job sharing.” When I had my first baby, the labour took 36 hours, and during that time, there were three midwives and various other obstetricians involved. In what was a customer facing, time critical, life critical process, a single role was successfully shared. Surely if this type of role can be successfully shared, so can any other. Just like learning to walk, it can seem like a mission to try something new, but once you know how to take your first step, the rest comes naturally.
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