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Jane's job share story

Jane shares her experience and journey of flexible working including job sharing. She has some great tips for making it work successfully for all involved.

“Respect for your job-sharing partner is really critical. Their way of working / priorities might be really different from your own, so you have to respect that.”

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I commenced work in 1981 (directly after finishing school) and have predominantly worked full-time since then. I’ve always enjoyed work and have had the good fortune to work in a diverse range of industries, and to pursue tertiary study in a part-time capacity.

Over the last few years my life outside of work has become busier. I have an ageing mother and my husband has been transitioning to retirement. This has given me to cause to reflect on my priorities and to try to adjust my working life to accommodate personal commitments.

What flexible work arrangements (part-time hours, job share, flexible hours, working remotely compressed hours) have you experienced and how have these worked for you?

During 2007-2009 I was able to negotiate a 30 hour week with my then employer (Wednesdays off). While I appreciated the extra time off, the workload wasn’t adjusted and I was still working in a full-time capacity (extending my hours on the days that I was working), but with reduced paid hours. Recognising that this wasn’t working as it should, I discussed it with my supervisor and agreed to return to full-time hours.

The next time was in 2017 when I took 6 weeks off from work to travel, (the longest period that I have ever taken in leave). During this time, my position was backfilled by Deborah, a temporary agency employee. Returning to work I was dreading the inevitable pile of work that I was sure would await me.

However this wasn’t the case, Deborah was very experienced and capable and I began to form the idea of negotiating with my manager a job-sharing arrangement with Deborah. I was lucky that Deborah was also looking to secure part-time work. We proposed the idea to our manager who agreed to trial it for a set period.

This proved to be a very suitable mutually beneficial arrangement, with our manager noting that more was being achieved by us both working in the position.

What advice would you give to a person applying for a position to be job shared?

I think that you always need to recognise that the manager wants the work to be done to high standard and that if this can best be achieved through a job-share arrangement, it needs to be demonstrated.

In our arrangement, our manager determined the hours and days that he wanted us to work. The only proviso was that Deborah was unable to work Wednesdays and so I was happy to work then. We were both committed to making the arrangement work and so demonstrated loyalty, flexibility and respect to each other and our manager.

Deborah and I agreed to limit any changes to days/hours so that the manager and everyone in the working team knew when each of us would be working.

What advice would you give to a person starting out in a job share arrangement? What advice should they ignore?

In the early stages it’s important to keep checking in to make sure the arrangement is mutually beneficial. This means checking with your job-sharer and your manager to determine if the arrangement needs adjusting.

It’s important to focus on making it work and ignoring others who suggest that you might be working more than your “fair share”.

What belief or behaviour has been most helpful to you in successfully working part-time and/or job share? How?

Respect for your job-sharing partner is really critical. Their way of working / priorities might be really different from your own, so you have to respect that. If there is a problem the manager will determine what is expected.

It’s also good to have some overlap on a regular basis to touch base as a working team and to allocate tasks as necessary. Communication with each other and the manager is really important.

What have you become better at saying no to (invitations, meetings, time wasters)? What new work habits helped? Any other tips?

I can’t speak highly enough of my job-sharing experience. We were both committed to making it work and so there were never any quibbles about individual workloads. Admittedly the job was such that it suited the arrangement as were able to take on discrete tasks. Some consideration about the job itself and its suitability to a job-sharing arrangement may be needed.

Our manager (and his manager) was impressed by the arrangement and the amount and quality of work that we were able to perform, and both Deborah and I enjoyed a better work/life balance.

As there is a lot of stuff that happens in the office when you aren’t there, I think you have to be proactive in ensuring that you are up to speed with anything that arises while you’re not in the office. Again this is where communication with each other is important. You also need to be very clear when dealing with stakeholders about times of when you will be available to them, if your job-sharing partner is not able to fulfil these responsibilities.

Perhaps the only major drawback about the arrangement that I found was that in a large organisation that is heavily reliant on email, you often need a bit more time to review emails that are received when you aren’t in the office and to catch up on things that are needed or have happened while you haven’t been in.

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