In 2011, Margaret and I were both working 3 days a week for Government Office South West in Bristol. We knew each other to say hello to, but no more than that. However, all that was about to change! When the Government Office network was abolished, and we both applied for the same position in the newly created Local Intelligence Team in the office of Civil Society (Cabinet Office), we were offered the post on a job-share basis. We are part of a team of 9, with 1 colleague based in each of the other 7 English regions and we have an outward facing role, engaging with stakeholders from voluntary and community sector organisations, local authorities and business across the whole of the South West. We are out of the office most of the time.
Interestingly, we took on an element of job-splitting as well as job-sharing, with both of us doing the same role but on different days of the week. This was because of existing working patterns around which our childcare and after school activities were finely balanced! We contemplated a thematic split, but concluded that with a huge, fast moving policy agenda we would constantly be discussing who should take on which new policy and so we quickly decided that we should split our role geographically, with each of us covering half the region.
The positives to this are that we both see the big picture and have a handle on all the policies coming out of the Office of the Civil Society – enabling both of us to make strategic links within our geographic areas. Our stakeholders have a single point of contact and we can build up an in-depth understanding of the issues and relationships in their areas. The downside is that we both have to ensure that we are up to speed on all the issues and this can prove challenging in the hours we work. We are both guilty of reading our emails on our non-working days, and have to flex our working days occasionally to attend important meetings. Our colleagues tend to view us as 2 individuals post holders, but on certain tasks we each do less than our full time colleagues.
We have reviewed our working arrangements a couple of times, but concluded that the geographic split is the only possible approach. We produce a joint report on our activity at the end of each month, and we cover for each other on regional events and meetings. Once every 2 weeks we get together and have a forward looking meeting to identify any synergies and emerging themes from across the region. When the team is asked to participate in a number of projects – I will often take one and Margaret the other to balance our time.
So, what are the advantages of a job-split over part time post? Someone to talk, bounce ideas off, plagiarise and cover for you when the going gets tough! The success of a job-split will depend on the nature of the work, the relationship you have with your work partner and what you make of it. But I would certainly recommend it!