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Workingmums.co.uk is running an occasional series on people’s experience of job shares in an effort to encourage more employers to consider them and to consider what needs to be done to make them work.
Senior job shares are seen as a way for those who need to work reduced hours to continue to progress their careers. However, in reality the experience can be mixed if it is not managed properly.
One person who knows all about that is Zoe Gilbert who did a senior job share in marketing for four years.
The role was her substantive post before the job share. She says: “It was great to have someone to work with who really understood the pressures of the job and to use as a sounding board. We had the same work ethic and really supported each other and became really close friends.”
So far so good, but problems developed because of the workload placed on the two women.
Whereas when she was doing the role full time, Zoe would have focused on three or four clients or major projects, as a job share they each had almost the same number of clients. Also if there were any departmental projects with actions split between all the team managers they would each be assigned a role, rather than something between them. The same applied to appraisal objectives.
The workload just grew and grew and Zoe thinks it was hard for colleagues to see her and her job share partner as two people doing one job and not two people doing two jobs. She says: “As such, what should have been a good way for us to work part time but in a relatively senior position, resulted in us effectively working full time around children, so evenings, early mornings and weekends, but being paid for part time hours.” She puts a significant part of the problem down to lack of training for managers in how to manage job shares.
After four years the workload became too much so both women left the role in December.
Zoe says now: “In the right circumstances, I would recommend job shares. But it’s a really careful balance between the workload and also finding the right sort of person to work with.”
Her job share is now in a different organisation, working four days a week for less money and at a lower level – in part because she was exhausted. Zoe, meanwhile, has completely changed direction and is now teaching baby massage and baby yoga. In September she will be launching her own massage therapy business, working from a treatment room at home and around the school holidays and school day. She will earn less, but is happy that she will be around more for her children.
She says: “I feel grateful that we were able to work in a job share for four years, as it did allow us time with our children before they went to school. However, I do feel because we had children at home we remained in a working situation which really wasn’t acceptable way longer than we should have done.”