Why job sharing is like 'having a secret superpower'

8

How does it work?

We work three days each with a day of overlap, which is best practice. From an employer perspective, one of the potential concerns about job sharing is duplication. This is something that we are aware of and try to minimise. On Wednesdays, we have an hour-long morning cafe meeting to debrief on the week, and we like to attend important meetings together. 

We “divide and conquer” tasks but share responsibility for the overall direction of content, strategy and major decisions. Staff know to address emails to both of us, so the burden of figuring out who will respond is on us, not on others. If there is an urgent matter we will call each other on our days off to consult, but otherwise we can relax knowing the other person is totally across it.

When we started job sharing we thought it would be like running a relay race, passing the baton halfway through the week. But we discovered the arrangement has its own creative magic. Because we consult on all major decisions and strategy we are able to move quickly and think innovatively. We can dispel doubts and solve problems because of the power of collaboration.

It also works because of our mix of skills. You may imagine you’d want your job-share partner to be a clone of yourself; but actually you want someone equally capable but complementary. Aside from being super smart, Nat is across every conversation on Twitter, has deep digital knowledge, excellent judgment and a cool analytical head.

It’s no surprise that job-share agencies offer “speed dating sessions” because you need that alchemy, especially in a creative role.

It is like having a “work wife” and the same principles of having a good relationship apply. You need to prioritise the partnership and not your ego. While we have robust discussions and differences of opinion behind the scenes, we always show a united front. Our manager now addresses us in emails as “U2” and that’s just fine.

Natalie: I have friends tell me that they could never job share and I understand where they are coming from. When you have spent years in male-dominated workplaces working hard to have your talents noticed and rewarded, the idea of sharing the spotlight can be very challenging. Plus we live and work in a culture that idealises individual achievement. But to me job sharing has been a gift. I tell my friends I think of job sharing as like having a secret superpower; Danielle and I lift each other up and our strengths are magnified.

My experience is similar to Danielle’s in that once I became a parent I spent years trying different ways of working. I have worked two days a week, three days a week, four days a week. I have worked early shifts that started at 5am and evening shifts that finished at 2am. And I spent years working on weekends because it meant I saved on daycare. But I learned the hard way that part-time work equals career stagnation.

Credit:Sam Mooy

When Danielle first suggested sharing this role it was like being offered a lifeline. I had been at a crossroads – I knew that I didn’t want a full-time job but I didn’t see any part-time options. Now it feels like having the best of both worlds, I get proper work-life balance and my career is progressing.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits, and one that doesn’t get talked about enough, is that we have learned so much from each other. Danielle is the best editor I have worked with and I feel privileged to see up close how she gets the job done and why she makes the decisions she does. Just being cc’ed on all the emails was an eye-opener.

We joke that we are work wives but there is some truth to it. You become a united front which relies on trust and discretion, and in return you gain an adviser, someone who can encourage your best ideas and curb your worst impulses. Plus we have all but eliminated lag. When one of us is burnt out on a project, the other person steps in and carries it forward.

Loading

At some point, one of us (or both of us) will have the capacity to work full-time again and when this arrangement comes to end, I’ll walk away a much happier and healthier person, having furthered my career and gained new skills as well as a friend for life (I’ve seen all the emails, I know too much!).

I wish society spent more time celebrating work partnerships. We are very grateful to our manager for supporting the idea and going on this ride with us, and we truly believe SBS has benefited as well.

Most Viewed in Lifestyle

Loading