Job Sharing

Job sharing describes the sharing of one full-time job by two part-time employees, requiring interaction and collaboration between two part-time employees in completing work goals. Generally, pay and benefits are distributed equally between the part-time workers involved in job sharing. Objectives of job sharing include improved management of work and family responsibilities, better retention of highly qualified employees, leveraging the skills and experiences of two part-time instead of one full-time employee, and higher flexibility for the employees involved.

History and Prevalence of Job Sharing

Job sharing was first developed in the 1960s to provide employees with more part-time employment opportunities. In contrast to traditional part-time employment, job sharing was designed to allow the sharing of professional jobs that entail higher levels of organizational responsibility than traditional part-time jobs. Initially, job sharing was limited to government jobs, but it spread to the private sector in the late 1970s and 1980s. Despite the advantages of job sharing, it is not as common as other part-time working arrangements—in the 1990s, between 22% and 47% of organizations reported offering job sharing to their employees as one part-time employment option. The prevalence of job sharing differs based on industry; job sharing is more common in the health care and government sectors than in other industries. Today, job sharing is accomplished using different scheduling techniques. Some jobs are shared so that each of the two employees covers a whole week and then has a week off. Other job shares involve the splitting of daily responsibilities. For example, one employee may work during the morning and the other job sharer, in the afternoon. Daily rotations between the two employees are another form of job sharing; one employee may cover Mondays, Wednesdays, and part of Fridays, and the other may cover Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the other part of Fridays. Although both men and women are involved in job sharing, women with young children are overrepresented among job sharers.

Research Findings on Costs and Benefits of Job Sharing For Employers and Employees

Employers

Organizations interested in implementing job sharing face various costs and benefits of program implementation. Several costs have been found to be consequences of the implementation of job-sharing programs: Job sharing has been identified to relate to increased training costs—in job-sharing situations, two employees, instead of one, have to be trained to fill a job. Usually, both employees receive benefits, which can lead to increased benefits costs if services such as health insurance have to be provided to more than one employee. Costs for personnel administration also rise if job sharing is in place. Again, this greater cost is caused by pay and benefits needing to be administered to two employees instead of one. Further costs can arise if the job-sharing employees communicate ineffectively. Miscommunication may lead to duplicated work or wasted time as employees try to establish what work has been finished. Conversely, employers can benefit substantially from having job-sharing programs: If two employees are trained to fill the same position, one can fill in if the other is absent. Thus, employee illness and vacation times are less disruptive if job-sharing programs are in place than if a single employee fills the same position. Further organizational benefits of job sharing include enhanced employee retention and enhanced productivity through potentially complementary employee strengths, abilities, and skills directed toward work objectives. From a recruitment perspective, job sharing can also lead to a competitive advantage for an organization—a position advertised as being available on a full-time or job-sharing basis exploits both full-time and part-time labor markets.

Employees

For employees, job sharing has been found to provide opportunities for successful management of work and personal responsibilities. Employees generally value the availability of job-sharing opportunities. Such opportunities help employees balance work and family responsibilities, raise children, obtain additional education in their free time, or develop additional professional interests during later stages of their career. Particularly those with young children value employers who provide part-time working arrangements such as job sharing. Studies conducted in the health care sector show job sharing to relate to higher satisfaction and physical health status than flextime and other part-time or full-time working arrangements. Also, longitudinal studies of job sharers demonstrate that although initially the well-being of those in job-sharing arrangements did not surpass that of other part-time employees, long-term effects were more positive. Job sharing is not without negative outcomes, however. Employees engaged in job-sharing arrangements can also incur costs: Research has found job sharers to be more likely to quit their jobs than full-time employees if their psychological contracts are violated. Although job-sharing employees experience more advancement opportunities than traditional part-time employees, they still have fewer opportunities than full-time employees. In many organizations, an individual’s decision to take a job-sharing position is interpreted as low commitment to career and organization, leading to reduced opportunities for advancement and training. In addition, employees involved in job sharing experienced lower levels of sex discrimination than other part-time employees, but still higher levels of sex discrimination than full-time employees. Some job sharers have reported feeling they had to accomplish a full-time job on a part-time schedule, making job sharing a demanding experience. Other negative consequences of job sharing occur if the two employees sharing one full-time job communicate ineffectively, as previously mentioned, or define their respective roles insufficiently. Unions generally view job sharing favorably, because benefits and job security of job-sharing employees are usually better than those received by other part-time employees. Last, supervisors with no previous exposure to job sharing were found to react cautiously toward the prospect of having employees involved in job sharing but evaluated job sharing more positively if they had previous exposure.

References:

  1. Edwards, C. Y., & Robinson, O. (2001). “Better” part-time jobs? A study of part-time working in nursing and the police. Employee Relations, 23(5), 438-454.
  2. Frone, M. R., & Yardley, J. K. (1996). Workplace family-supportive programmes: Predictors of employed parents’ importance ratings. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 69(4), 351-366.
  3. Olmsted, B. (1977). Job sharing—a new way to work. Personnel Journal, 56(2), 78-81.
  4. Olmsted, B., & Smith, S. (1983). The job sharing handbook. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
  5. Olmsted, B., & Smith, S. (1994). Creating a flexible workplace: How to select and manage alternative work options (2nd ed.). New York: AMACOM.
  6. Rangecroft, A. (1983). Job sharing for educational psychologists. AEP (Association of Educational Psychologists) Journal, 6(2), 18-22.
  7. Stanworth, C. M. (1999). A best case scenario? Non-manual part-time work and job-sharing in UK local government in the 1990s. Community, Work and Family, 2(3), 295-310.
  8. Zedeck, S., & Mosier, K. L. (1990). Work in the family and employing organization. American Psychologist, 45(2), 240-251.

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