Job sharing is a flexible working arrangement in which two or more individuals voluntarily share the responsibilities, pay, and benefits of a full-time position. In essence, job sharers convert one full-time job into two permanent part-time positions by coordinating task responsibilities while sharing the full-time equivalent of pay and fringe benefits. Job sharers may work split days, split or alternate weeks, or their hours may overlap. Pay and benefits are typically divided proportionately to the hours worked. Other similar yet distinct flexible working arrangements include regular part-time work, flextime, V-time, and work sharing.
Research has suggested that successful job-sharing arrangements have beneficial effects for both employees and organizations. Job sharing is believed to broaden the depth of organizational knowledge, facilitate the achievement of human resource management objectives, and enhance organizational flexibility. Moreover, job sharing has implications for individual careers, as it has been found to reduce stress associated with juggling work and family demands and increase job satisfaction. In addition, because job-sharing employees perceive their organizations as recognizing and accommodating their personal lives, the practice has been found to increase organizational commitment and loyalty and reduce turnover and absenteeism.
Job sharing originated in the 1970s as a creative solution for career-minded individuals balancing work and life responsibilities. Job sharing permits part-time opportunities in career-oriented jobs that are not conducive to reduced hours or traditional part-time employment. An employee seeking to spend less time at work yet maintain status within a career can remain in the workforce by splitting his or her workload with a job-sharing partner. This arrangement allows individuals to work reduced-hour schedules yet maintain job skills, preserve job status, and remain eligible for advancement within their careers.
Job sharing is increasingly being offered by employers as part of a package of family-friendly or work-life balance policies geared primarily toward parents. In fact, approximately 90 percent of job-share partners are women with parental or elder care responsibilities. However, more frequently, individuals are requesting job-share arrangements for reasons other than family responsibilities, such as to continue education or to phase into retirement.
A job-sharing arrangement is typically initiated by employees who make a written proposal to management. This proposal may include issues such as the advantages to the employer if the job is restructured; the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed job-sharing team; the specifics of the work plan, including how the responsibilities and work time will be divided; and the proposed communication techniques. The success of the job-sharing arrangement is dependent on gaining supervisory support and maintaining open lines of communication, not only between job share partners but also between the partners and management. In addition, it is critical for the division of responsibilities to be seamless and for balance to be maintained in the sharers’ partnership.
Empirical research with respect to job sharing is limited; however, a number of organizational benefits have been identified. For example, organizations offering job-sharing arrangements have the ability to recruit and retain highly skilled and valuable employees who may be unable or unwilling to work on a full-time basis. In addition, job sharing has been found to increase organizational flexibility and continuity by allowing sharing partners and management to develop work schedules that satisfy both parties, thereby providing continuity when one partner is unavailable or unable to work. Successful job-sharing arrangements are further said to broaden organizational knowledge by bringing two or more diverse sets of skills, experiences, and perspectives to a position that would traditionally be occupied by only one person. Moreover, it has been suggested that the creative pairing of job-sharing partners can help in the achievement of human resource management objectives, such as training, phased retirement, and upward mobility.
In addition to allowing employees to gain flexibility in balancing their work and personal commitments, job sharing has other beneficial effects for individuals. Research indicates that the heightened control over one’s working life can reduce stress and anxiety levels and lead to more highly motivated and satisfied employees. Moreover, individuals involved in job-sharing arrangements have been found to be more committed and loyal to their organizations than their coworkers, presumably because they feel that their personal needs are being recognized by their employers.
Despite the potential benefits, job sharing remains the least utilized flexible working arrangement. Research has suggested that the most common organizational concerns include increased administrative and training costs and extra time requirements for supervision and communication. Additional concerns include the impact of job sharing on other employees, the difficulty in hiring a replacement if one partner leaves the organization, and an overall change in organizational culture.
Advocates argue that organizations view job sharing as more difficult than it really is. It is suggested that the success or failure of the arrangement is dependent on the people who compose the team and on management’s willingness to accept and foster the arrangement. With commitment, compromise, and open communication, job-sharing arrangements can benefit both the organization and the job-sharing partners. Employees gain flexibility to balance their work and personal lives, and organizations benefit from highly satisfied and motivated employees, lower absenteeism, and reduced turnover.
- Family-responsive workplace practices
- Flexible work arrangements
- Part-time employment
- Work-family balance
- MacDermid, S. M., Lee, M. D., Buck, M. and Williams, M. L. 2001. “Alternate Work Arrangements Among Professionals and Managers: Rethinking Career Development and Success.” Journal of Management Development 20:305-317.
- Meier, G. S. 1979. Job Sharing: A New Pattern for Quality of Work and Life. Kalamazoo, MI: W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
- Olmsted, B. and Smith, S. 1989. Creating a Flexible Workplace: How to Select and Manage Alternative Work Options. New York: American Management Association.