Job sharing: impossible?

Not for this team! When two colleagues approached their team lead with the request to job share, they made such a compelling business case he couldn't say no.

Stephan, who leads the IB FX, Rates & Credit (FRC) Efficient Access Sales team in Zurich was confident when his team members Lena and Christin recently approached him with the request to job share, "they made such a compelling business case that I couldn’t say no. Plus, we’re all asked to challenge and sometimes that means challenging the status quo.” Stephan knew both Lena and Christin, understood their complementary skill sets and knew their working styles were compatible – and confirmed his support for the job sharing solution.

Stephan

Christin and Lena knew each other before they started job sharing, which was a huge benefit. "One of the most important things for successful job sharing is that you work in a similar way – as you essentially act as one person. Trust is, of course, the other key ingredient," says Christin. When Christin came back to work after her second maternity leave, she wanted to work part time or job share, but there were no opportunities.

Lena, a working mom on the same team, was also looking for a way to better combine her work and private life after maternity leave – and the match was perfect. They drafted a concept, which is what started the ball rolling.

"It’s important to keep the right balance of being ‘one person’ and still being your own individual," says Lena. Christin adds: "We still have our own mailboxes but we're also able to access one another's. At the same time, we always respond in our own name and make sure that people know who is communicating to avoid any confusion. Working as 'one person' also means receiving praise or critique together, no matter who did the great work or who made the mistake."

So, what’s the difference between job sharing and part-time work? Christin explains, "I know that on my day off I can totally leave my BlackBerry aside because Lena is in the office and she fully takes charge. This allows me to fully focus on my children. When I return to work on Thursdays, I know that Lena has managed the Inbox so I don't see a flood of unread emails. This also means that my team colleagues didn't have to manage requests during my absence."

Lena

"Challenges can arise if work styles differ or there is not enough trust. Gladly, we've never had a negative experience. Most people react positively and are surprised to see this model working in our function," Lena says.

Christin

What does Stephan have to say? “Simply put, it works because both Lena and Christin are extremely organized and want it to work. They both show a lot of flexibility and ensure that every handover is seamless. They also use technology to help – like managing e-mail inboxes.” And clients? “You know what? Clients are happy to see UBS doing these kinds of things. We make a lot of claims that we are modern and innovative, and concrete examples like this demonstrate to our clients that what we say is true.

My role as a line manager is to set up my team for success and let them find the most efficient way to work. At the end of the day, it's about taking a chance.”

What’s the future of job sharing? "It’s inevitable for firms to offer more job-sharing possibilities to their employees," says Christin. “There is a growing demand for qualified employees and modern firms need to stay attractive by creating working models that suit all types of employees, no matter whether female or male, with or without children."

Successful job sharing – top tips from Lena and Christin

  • No competition between job sharers
  • The team functions as one person – getting praise or constructive feedback
  • It helps to have the same working style – and organization is key
  • You need to trust each other
  • Make it clear who is communicating – always sign your name to your e-mails
  • Be flexible
  • Exploit the technology you have available to make it work efficiently (e.g. give access to mailboxes, folders, etc.)
  • Let your line manager know if you are interested in job sharing – but don't expect it to be possible in every role (and policies and processes may vary by region)
  • An overlapping day is helpful for the handover and team meetings
  • Enjoy your days off without checking your e-mails

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