The Sustainable Side of Job Sharing

"It sounds great but it would never work for me." This is the initial reaction many people have when they hear about job sharing. However, upon further exploration, this could be an option that would overall increase work life balance, loyalty to the employer and job satisfaction.

In this article, I explore and encourage job sharing as an option. Job sharing achieves positive outcomes and is consistent with sustainability. I believe job sharing should be offered by a company as one of the human resources-related social responsibility programs available.

As a sustainability recruiter, I am intrigued by the intersection of sustainability and human resources. Job sharing is one that makes a lot of sense but is rarely considered.

First Off, Job Sharing is Sustainable

"Job sharing supports work force sustainability," says Paige Bayer, a job sharer at Hewlett Packard (HP). "I am afforded the flexibility to work three days a week and because of that I am even more deeply committed to working for HP; HP benefits by having two loyal employees who are committed to high performance in their job and to the company. A work scenario like this keeps HP from burning out or replacing workers who leave the company in search of more flexibility, allowing HP to capitalize on the investment it made in hiring and training us."

What Job Sharing Is…

To clarify what job sharing is, it is not two people doing a part-time job. Job sharing suggests one job description, one job, and really one identity created by two people. Because the two perform one job, their identity often morphs into one identity. One job sharing team shared that during phone calls with clients, the client often did not know which of the two was on the receiving end of the call. And the job sharers regard this as a mark of success.

While it is not always women who job share, that is certainly the vast majority; and go figure, they are moms too. For the most part, two people choose to share to better achieve work life balance, to better manage their family and the home.

Meet Three Job-Sharing Pairs

Let me introduce you to the three job sharing duo's that provided input to this article. I refer to them by the single name that others have come to use:

• PaigeDonna: Paige Bayer and Donna Hokama, analysts at HP who are on the team responsible for HP's carbon footprint calculator now in their 3rd year of a job share
• Meghanna: Meghan Gosk and Anna Millar, Senior Associate Director, MBA Program, Kenan Flagler Business School University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill in their 7th year of a job share
• Nora/Sarah: Nora Bloch and Sarah Kitterman, Vice President of Community Development Lending, Wainwright Bank and Trust Co., Boston now in their 8th year of a job share

Overcoming Obstacles

Job sharing takes a leap of faith and a willingness to overcome obstacles. The decision to take this route comes with fear amongst all stakeholder groups- fear that you won't get along with your job share partner, fear that your peers won't be supportive, and fear that others will doubt this can work, get confused, and will have to repeat everything twice.

Meghanna explained that the greatest challenges are up front. Any couple in a job share needs to take the time to figure it out for themselves. They develop a system of communicating and sharing information. Because there are so few models of how to do this, it takes initiative and keenness to go against the norm.

Over time, the fears dissipate.

To the job sharer, one of the fears is actually an obstacle. There is a sense that taking a job share is equivalent to taking the "mommy track," that it slows down one's career. Certainly it does not halt one's career like it would for a parent who decides to quit working, but job share will likely get someone off the fast track. Meghanna and PaigeDonna touched on this. However this is not the case for Nora/Sarah who feels this choice has not slowed their career.

Next page: The Benefits of Job Sharing