Jobsharing The Truth

Posted: Saturday October 13 2018

By: Abbie Coleman

Jobshare the truth: 18 months ago we were new to job sharing – together we are responsible for Sheffield Hallam University’s UK student recruitment and widening participation. In this article we share our experiences by tackling some common responses or areas of concern you may experience when exploring jobsharing a role.

Jobsharing The Truth – Ever thought about job sharing?

‘This role won’t work as a job share’

Jobsharing the truth –  Our starting point was research into the different models of jobsharing – a piece of work called the jobshare project was a great resource. We discovered a model that would work for the demands of our role and designed our jobshare around this ‘hybrid’ model, whereby we share the role objectives but had lead areas of responsibility, and divided line management. You need to consider what your role needs to achieve and which model would support this most effectively. We took time to talk this through with stakeholders who knew us both and our role to ‘test’ this approach and made tweaks accordingly.

We also set a review point to revisit these stakeholders for feedback. We made an agreement about how we would work together based on this – and have re-visited it over time as we evolved in confidence in our job share. It was useful to seek out others in the organisation who were or had experience of jobsharing – we discovered a whole range of different models in operation working for all kinds of different roles and it was useful to hear tips and tricks, and discuss what we liked and didn’t like about different approaches. We were conscious we were challenging the status quo to some extent, in becoming the most senior role to operate as a job share in our organisation, and being aware of this gave us motivation to ensure this was not only possible but of benefit to the organisation. 18 months in, our manager and our stakeholders tell us this is the case.

‘You’ll cost more’

Firstly, this depends on what your agreement is, how much you ‘overlap’ and the tools you use to support your communication and efficiency. However, in our experience any additional investment in terms of ‘overlap’ is just that – an investment. Some, short, regular face to face time is valuable – as it is in any relationship. We tend to spend an hour together a week (and share a scone!) and we use this time to unpick any challenges, talk through solutions, and agree strategy. We don’t need to use this valuable face to face time to handover work – as we use a shared electronic notebook for this purpose. This tool means we are able to share all notes from meetings, conversations, reading, actions along with any other ‘useful to know’ bits!

The saying ‘two heads are better than one’ is perfectly applied to job sharing, a peer mentor and someone to resolve issues and build ideas with, exactly why our line manager has fed back that although she manages an extra person she actually spends less time with us. An important thing to consider in this is not to lose sight of those whose perspectives you previously used and ensure you make them continue to feel valuable. The balance we now also have in life means that we bring renewed energy to our work, with more momentum than ever. This balance has enabled each of us to pursue other personal ambitions – Chair of Governors and several roles in the charity sector – that in turn benefit our personal development and therefore the organisation.

‘Stakeholders won’t like it’

A key area of our role is stakeholder engagement, both internally across our large organisation (4500+ staff) and externally across the region. Consistency of communications and flexibility of approaches are critical to making this a success. Our goal was to ensure that no one ever had to feel like they were repeating themselves. Our electronic notebook is a critical practical tool in this. A flexibility of approach can also help us focus on specific relationships individually at times. We share the role and the objectives but we will always be individuals and some elements of our style may complement other people’s working styles and we try to be honest and pragmatic about this. Stakeholders have consistently been our biggest advocates, proactively promoting their positive experiences of our job share.

‘I’ll lose my identity’

A loss of identity was jointly one of our biggest personal concerns before we started jobsharing and we were honest with each other about that. We spent time working through any concerns and how we wanted to work together before confirming our jobshare and this gave us a really useful ‘rules of engagement’ framework, that we could refer back to and feel clear up-front about our personal and shared expectations. Through having a shared identity as well as our individual identities we have actually found this to has become one of our greatest strengths. Of course, some of this comes from really building trust in one another, having each other’s back but also being comfortable enough to disagree and move forward. You do have to compromise, adjust and keep working on your relationship. We celebrate in individual and shared successes equally and share opportunities between us.

JobSharing the Truth – Reasons why we think ours has worked…

• Matched in values, commitment, work ethic, motivation.
• A desire to make it work!
• Strong communication – use technology!
• Supportive line manager
• Clear joint as well as personal objectives
• Trust
• Remember why you are doing it – balance
• Be exact other’s biggest champion

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# Jobsharing The Truth