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Job Sharing: The Future of Work?

The Great Recession led to a lot of economic changes in North America, including the ushering in of the “sharing economy.” Businesses such as Uber or Airbnb enable ordinary people to profit from sharing their cars or spare bedrooms.

The latest in this phenomenon is job sharing, wherein on jobs that have expanded into 10- or 15-hour days are being performed by two people functioning in one role. Unconventional? Maybe. Interesting? Definitely.

Definitions for job sharing vary. According to Forbes, job sharing is “…not two people doing a part-time job. Job sharing is one job description, one identity created by two people.” The article goes on to say, “Because the two perform one job, their identities often morph. In fact, job sharing teams report that clients often did not know which of the two was on the receiving end of the call. For job sharers, this is a mark of success.”

Making sharing work

Employers are becoming fans of this team-member pairing, too, and may integrate shared jobs into their recruiting strategy to attract new hires. As the Department of Labor puts it, “The benefits of job sharing are said to include increased morale and productivity. Job sharing can also be an attractive way to recruit new employees and retain current ones. In order for a job sharing arrangement to be successful, however, both individuals must be able to handle the position as efficiently as one person.”

This is an optimal solution for 2015’s shift toward work-life balance and always-accessible tech solutions. Jobs that can take more than 8-12 hours in a day are not such a barrier when everybody’s within reach of mobile devices and the Internet. But defining clear schedules and on-call hours is essential to the job-sharing dynamic performing well.

In Entrepreneur Magazine’s look at “The Pros and Cons of Job Sharing,” author Dr. David G. Javitch writes, “The final potential challenge you’ll need to keep an eye on, if you choose to implement a job-sharing program, is this: Both of the two employees sharing the job will not always be available to respond to an inquiry or respond to an action because they won’t be physically present. So if another employee needs to speak with the job sharer and that person isn’t in, the result could be a delay in communicating or a delay in productivity. To help eliminate this problem, you might have your job sharers agree to be contacted at home on their ‘off’ day in the event of an emergency.” Other employers have seen success with the two workers overlapping one or more hours where they’re both in office—or online to answer questions in real time and keep communication moving.

Job sharing as a reality

If you think a job sharing partner might enhance the performance of your role, where do you begin the job sharing process? In her blog post, “How and When to Find a Job Sharing Partner,” Pat Katepoo, work options adviser and negotiations coach, writes, “A successful job sharing arrangement starts with finding and choosing a compatible work partner. I recommend you complete this step before you actually develop and present the proposal to share your existing position. With that person identified, you can present a realistic, workable job sharing proposal filled with the details which the two of you have discussed. Referencing the person’s experience and skills within the proposal, and attaching her resume, are also part of the ‘sell’ to your manager.”

Your job, and work-life quality, could dramatically improve if the conditions for a job sharing dynamic are right. To get the conversation started, attend networking events and get more active on social media to start scouting potential referrals. You may be looking at a more manageable job in your near future.

Susan Ricker researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.

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