Tom Powell and Kathryn Alford work in the Department of Energy and Climate Change having successfully applied for a Grade 6 opportunity as a job share partnership from the Ministry of Defence (MOD). They kindly agreed to share their experiences of job sharing below.
How did you find each other?
Tom – Our job share partnership started in the MOD. We knew each other previously in our working life. I was already working part-time and looking for a new challenge; Kathryn was coming back from maternity leave and looking for a new B2 (Grade 7) position.
Kathryn – I had job shared with someone else before I went on maternity leave, but when I left my job share partner had returned to working full-time. Tom and I found a full time post we liked the look of and talked to the recruiting line manager about a job share before applying.
How did your new team react to the job share?
Kathryn - Although this was a new role, there was quite a big team to manage whose previous line manger had been there a long time and was very well thought of.
Tom - We made sure we sat down with all the team members individually and consulted with them about how it would work in practice. We took onboard their suggestions and thoughts and kept arrangements under review so the arrangements evolved to support the team.
Kathryn - We also asked for feedback regularly just to make sure it was working. The team were pretty open and honest and that helped us manage the job share (and most feedback was very positive!).
How do you work out who is doing what in your role?
Tom - We divide the job up so we don't overlap on every task. It is only on the really urgent or important aspects that we have to know in detail what the other person is doing – so you can respond in an emergency. We each have our own set of objectives and our own e-mail addresses.
Kathryn - We divide the line manager duties too, but discuss tasking fortnightly because, for example, someone I'm line managing may do a task for Tom and we need to make sure they are not being pulled in two directions.
Tom - So there is a bit of matrix management. Our team will do some tasks for both of us but will do the majority of their work for one of us. That is how we decide who their formal line manager is.
What are the advantages to job sharing?
Kathryn – Tom and I have got quite different skill sets and strengths and so our managers get a more rounded output than if they had just one of us. It really works because we can have a healthy debate about the issues and can peer review and build on each other's work and thinking.
Tom - It also makes you think much harder about what work is really important and gives you a better perspective on your job. It gives you time to think, as you're not 'fire-fighting' five days a week.
Kathryn - For example, I can leave on a Friday thinking over an issue and then by Wednesday when I come back into the office I've got a solution in my head even though I haven't spent active time thinking about it. I also think job sharing makes me very good at planning because if you work five days a week you can get into a mindset where you always think you've got next week. I'm only in three days a week in the office, which means a deadline in two weeks is in fact only about five days for me. You have really got to be disciplined about how to get the task done by the deadline without dumping the team in it.
Tom – Another advantage is that we overlap on a Wednesday so on that day the business gets two people. There are also fewer long gaps during holidays as we often go at different times too.