I think the seeds of my thinking on job-sharing were planted during the time
I lived in Botswana, when my parents shared a job. They were co-directing
the country program of an aid agency called CUSO. It was the first time in
our lives that my father had worked less than full-time, and we loved the
opportunity to spend more time with him. At the same time, my mom was working
more than she ever had, and taking on new challenges that were clearly major
growth experiences for her. I learned a lot from watching how she handled
the stresses, and watching how my parents worked out an appropriate division
of job responsibilities together.
As I got closer to marrying and having my own kids, I thought a lot about
how I might have an active role in raising them. I wanted to avoid working
all the time throughout my kids' childhoods. How that might work, I wasn't
quite sure. I imagined alternating years, with my wife taking off the last
bit of pregnancy and most of the first year, and then me taking off the next
year. If the kids were spaced two years apart, I suppose it would be possible,
given two very understanding employers or a lot of job changes.
When I became involved with the woman who eventually became my wife, my thinking
changed a bit. Our qualifications were very similar, including both our academic
background and our work experience--so much so that when we met we probably
could have switched jobs with only modest disruption. The possibility of
job-sharing as spouses was something we talked about fairly early on.
Ultimately we did marry and have a child. We assessed the parental leave
situation, and decided that the eight weeks her employer gave at the time
was not enough. She decided to leave her job and stay out of the workforce
for a year. Because the benefits were better and the job involved a lot less
traveling than the job I had at the time, I decided to apply for her job--very
much a Daddy-track decision. Largely because our qualifications were so similar,
I was offered the job.
A year later, my wife wanted to come back into the workforce and I wanted
to get partway out, so we made a proposal to share slightly more than one
position between the two of us.
- I worked 28 hours a week and my wife worked 20 hours a week--these levels
were partly driven by benefits (at that employer, a salaried employee had
to average at least 20 hours a week to get health insurance, and at least
1000 hours a year to get a pension), and partly by the fact that one of us
needed to travel to conferences as part of our job responsibilities,
and it worked better if the one who did most of the traveling worked more
- We overlapped for two partial days each week, during which time our children
were in childcare--some overlap will always be needed for certain meetings
and coordination between ourselves, no matter what the job.
- We tried to keep our weekly schedules relatively fixed, so our supervisor
and others could track us down. That office had a calendar set up on the network,
in which we could record our weekly schedule.
- Our jobs were project manager positions, but we rarely shared any given
project. We each had our own slate of projects to manage, and although we
could and did cover for each other to some extent, we were not interchangeable.
We decided we'd spend far too much time briefing each other if we tried that.
- We did end up talking about work at dinner, and we sometimes had to rule
such discussions off-limits. We also sometimes checked our office e-mail and
voicemail and responded to them on home-days.
- We are both engineers, so we are fortunate in having reasonable earning
power even when working less than full-time. We realize not everyone has as
many options. We feel we broaden our range of choices, however, by consciously
planning for being on only one salary when we make major decisions such as
buying a house. The houses we live in tend to be smaller than those of some
of our peers, but we feel that has liberated us somewhat.
- We stayed with that employer for six years, and then changed jobs and countries,
moving to Canada to take a job with a consulting firm. When we applied for
Canadian jobs, we applied as a team.
- Our new employer has fully accepted the job sharing model we established
before. They talked with our previous employer about how it worked, and seemed
satisfied with what they heard.
- At our new employer, I work 25 hours a week and my wife works 20 hours a
week--again, these levels are partly driven by benefits, and partly by the
fact that I still travel more.
- We now overlap only on Monday mornings, when the weekly project update
meeting takes place. Other meetings that need to include both of us often
get scheduled on Mondays. We do have a childcare provider coming to our home
on Monday mornings, though our older child is close to being able to do without
that. The kids are both homeschooled, which is why they're still at home on
- We still keep our weekly schedules relatively fixed, so our supervisor
and others can track us down.
- We are both senior consultants, and we still rarely share any given project,
though it's fun when we get to work together on something.
- We still talk about work at dinner sometimes, but the kids don't put up
with it for long. We hear this loud chorus of "Not of general interest!"
from the peanut gallery. With the increase in electronic accessibility, we
probably do more work at home than we used to. It's not excessive, but it's
more than if we worked full-time - because we'd be doing it at the office
if we worked full-time!
- We still have a house that is smaller than those of some of our peers,
and we drive older and more ordinary cars than others around us, but we don't
feel we lose much that way.
- We have now been with the new employer for six years, and feel the job sharing
model is still working well.
There are a great many benefits to this system, both for us and the employer:
the employer gets 1.2 employees for less-than-average cost, because of shared
benefits; further, the 1.2 employees have a wider range of skills than any
other single employee, with resulting greater versatility
we're able to communicate and coordinate much more effectively than in a
more usual job sharing arrangement, because we live in the same house
we don't need as much sick time as most parents do, because we rely on
professional child care a lot less, and because we can cover for each other
at home if one of us has an important meeting
we're very loyal to an employer supportive of job sharing, because we feel
our family needs are being recognized and met
we each have a balance in our life between work and home, and our lives feel
less rushed than those of families with two full-time working parents
we spend a lot of time with our children, and we are confident that is of
great benefit to them
There are also a few disadvantages:
you have to marry someone in the same profession for our particular system
to work. Of course, you can still job share with someone other than your
we don't make as much money as two full-time project managers would, so there
are some material things we have to do without
our supervisor and colleagues are sometimes confused about which one of us
to expect in the office on a given day, if they haven't checked our schedule
- we have some concerns about finding a future employer who will welcome
us as a job sharing pair, but we now have twelve years of experience doing
it at two employers, so we feel we can provide compelling evidence that it
we can't avoid the need for some professional child care during the week,
and it can be quite difficult to find a quality child care setting that will
accept children part time
We feel the system we have is working well for us, our children, and our
employer. It's not perfect, but it's a good compromise. We would encourage
others to explore such arrangements with their employers. The more people
push for humane, balanced approaches to work and home, the better our society
will be in the long run. We need the flexibility to allow some to work full-time,
some to be at home full-time, and some to choose paths in between. No one
choice is right for all families. Good luck in choosing a path that works
Last Updated: 29 October 2006
WebMaster: Dave Shipley
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