Sarah Healey, Director General of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), tells us about her experiences of managing job sharers.
I'm a big fan of job shares – so am delighted this network has been established. I was recently involved with some work on getting more women into senior positions in the civil service. One of the major issues we identified was managers not understanding the benefits of having job sharers working for them – and not thinking creatively enough about how they can design jobs to suit job sharers. Hopefully this network can help share the very many experiences of people around government in making job sharing work, so we can all get better at it.
I have had several different kinds of job shares working for me (and people working part-time, which is another thing I think we could get more professional at managing effectively). Not all of the people involved have been women, which I think is a really good thing in getting job sharing established and accepted as an option for people with a very wide range of personal circumstances which mean they do not necessarily want to work a full week. And they have taken different forms – including the classic three days each with a crossover on a Wednesday and a 4 day:3 day job share to handle a particularly difficult and heavily loaded policy job.
For me, the benefits are obvious. As a manager, I got two different perspectives on both policy and staffing issues, two (usually complementary…) sets of skills in one role and two people who – because they weren't both working full weeks – had loads of energy while they were in the office. And a bonus for a manager which is not always understood was that my job shares often needed considerably less management time from me because they were able to bounce ideas off each other first, think round a problem, or simply offer each other a lot of moral support. It isn't the case that job shares are harder work for a manager in my experience at all.
All job shares are, however, of course different. As a manager I think there’s a few things you can insist on – and a few areas where you can be more flexible and change how you work depending on circumstances. One absolute rule has to be that you shouldn't need to give the same information twice; it’s for your job sharers to communicate effectively between them, not for you to ensure both partners know what they need to know. But on questions such as whether jobs should be split or shared wholly, how to organise 1:1s, etc, it depends on the people and the job what the right approach is – and you might all need to experiment with different approaches before you find the right one. Once you do, I firmly believe two heads can be better than one.