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Charlotte Farrell and Tabytha Cunningham do a job share at their law firm, Paris Smith, with mutual benefits for them and their team.
Employment lawyers Charlotte Farrell and Tabytha Cunningham have been working together for 10 years – at least half of that time as a job share – and are keen to talk about why it works so well for them.
At their previous firm, they both worked in the same employment law team, but in different locations, communicating remotely. Both fell pregnant with their first child at around the same time and they talked about doing a job share over a coffee. During their maternity leave they figured out how it would work and, knowing how flexible working requests worked, they firmed up their business case to ensure there was little reason to turn down their job share proposal.
From the start Charlotte and Tabytha were clear that they needed a crossover day in the office together. They had to negotiate a three-day week each in order to do this and suggested a trial run which then became permanent, showing by doing it that it worked best that way. They also asked for a shared email inbox to make communication smoother. “That made it clear we came as a package – two for the price of one – and that there was one point of contact so people didn’t have to think who was working at any given time,” says Tabytha.
They do the handover on their crossover day – Wednesday – so that they can both switch off properly on the days they are not working. “That is the real advantage of job shares over part-time working,” says Tabytha. “We have a very responsive job. If you work part time a lot of people end up working on their non-contracted days as the job is so unpredictable.”
They have become very efficient at handovers over time, providing each other with a summary of outstanding issues, and have developed a meticulous filing system. That means that it is very easy for others to know where they are on casework because it is all recorded. “It is a unique skill to pick things up for others. We have got very good at it. We are used to reading each other’s notes and digesting them very quickly,” says Charlotte. It also helps both them and their clients that they share a similar approach to work.
Charlotte states: “Both of us are very conscientious and we are both very careful that we don’t cherry pick the best jobs. We almost go too far the other way in fact. That is because we respect each other and want each other to do well. It is an even split.”
The two have shared targets and are adamant that everything they do is shared so there is no risk of competition. “You have to like the person you are job sharing with,” adds Charlotte. “Otherwise it would all unravel.”
During Covid they both worked from home and kept in regular contact more. Both were juggling young children while working and they altered their working hours to cover for each other’s childcare issues.
The two women say that working together means they get two perspectives on an issue and can brainstorm to develop new ideas and come up with practical solutions. They feel that, as a result, they need less support from other members of the team. Also, because most of the time they take separate weeks off for holidays when they return they don’t face the same backlog of emails as people working full time.
Charlotte and Tabytha moved to the law firm Paris Smith in 2017. They both wanted a change and were approached about the opportunity, knowing they were a job share. They had considered how they would apply for a new job as a partnership, whether they needed a joint cv and so forth, but in the end they didn’t have to. They replicated at Paris Smith what had worked until then – the joint email inbox, the crossover day and so forth.
After a year in the job they both fell pregnant again. Charlotte came back just before Covid and Tabytha came back in the middle of the pandemic. “Everyone here has embraced the job share,” says Charlotte. Their clients are also very happy as they are so responsive and their HR teams are keen to know how the job share works. They don’t see why they cannot progress up the career ladder as a job share.
Both women are keen to tell people about the wider benefits of a job share. It’s not just that they are more responsive than a single worker [the firm’s press officer affirms that this is the case], but their stress levels are reduced because they have time every week when they can switch off completely and because they know that they both look out for each other. “We have each other’s backs,” says Charlotte.
*Charlotte [pictured above right] and Tabytha [pictured left] are joining workingmums.co.uk’s expert panel to answer your questions about employment law. If you have a question for them email [email protected].