Can job sharing be the new normal?
Job sharing can benefit both employees and employers. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing job sharing that guarantees success but with shifts in mindset and technology, it may well become an established option in the future of work.
The Covid-19 crisis has normalised flexible work arrangements, in particular, telecommuting.
Yet another flexible working arrangement that is less commonly talked about but no less significant is job sharing.
Job sharing involves the division of duties and remuneration of a single full-time role between two persons working at different times.
It offers flexibility to employees who are keen to reduce their workload but would still like to contribute at the same level and positions they hold.
HOW IT BENEFITS BOTH EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES
Job sharing is optimal for employees who desire more time for familial obligations such as caregiving for ageing parents or young children, or to pursue personal interests, while enjoying the same career.
Those adopting job sharing to reduce work stress may find improved job satisfaction and productivity.
For employers, by enabling employees to address their diverse personal needs at different stages of their working lives, they could see improved employee engagement and retention.
Additionally, the availability of job sharing could broaden its talent pool, attracting those who offer the needed skills but prefer a better work-life balance.
Employers can also be strategic in their use of job sharing arrangements.
For example, by intentionally dividing an existing job role between a mature employee and another new hire, organisations could facilitate the valuable transfer of knowledge and experience, cross-pollination of ideas and allow for a more seamless transition should one party leave the role.
During times of buoyant economic performance and a tight labour market in an ageing local workforce, organisations that offer such flexible work arrangements are seen as more progressive and inclusive.
However, during an economic downturn, job sharing may be easily perceived as a cost-cutting and down-sizing measure.
Many may not recognise that when job sharing arrangements are implemented properly, organisations actually put more people on their payroll and create more discrete employment opportunities.
Even as the benefits of job sharing are clear, it remains one form of flexible working arrangement that is relatively nascent in Singapore.
Only 2 per cent of Singapore companies were offering job sharing programmes back in May 2019, said then-Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Low Yen Ling during a visit to my company EY in Singapore for a discussion on our flexible work programme.
Over the years, EY has had a handful of professionals take up job sharing due to personal commitments, and some have now transitioned back to a full-time role.
Those on the programme have provided feedback that it helped them to better balance caregiving and family needs with professional work commitments then.
This points to the core value proposition of job sharing — the ability to provide work flexibility when it matters and retain the same talent.
WHEN IS IT SUITABLE?
For job sharing arrangements to work effectively, it is important to clearly define how roles, responsibilities and remuneration will be split, and align and manage the expectations of both employer and employee.
The nature of the role is a key determinant of whether the job can be divided.
While all jobs may be considered for job sharing, it may be more appropriate for certain jobs, such as those where the task can be clearly delineated from the human performing it, and where the hand-over of responsibilities can be done easily and efficiently.
The components of a job must be clearly understood and redistributed, considering factors such as function, geography, time or task.
For example, roles in job families such as research and development, finance, information technology, legal and human resource (HR) may be more suited for job sharing compared to a function where there is a strong qualitative component or high dependence on relationships maintained by a person.
Even after identifying the job roles that are suited for job sharing, organisations must consider the cost of implementation.
For one thing, managers will require more time and effort to manage the performance of different individuals sharing the same job.
Additional investments are also needed to integrate larger numbers of individuals to align around the same purpose, values and goals; train and equip them with tools and resources; as well as make adjustments to HR policies and systems for rewards and performance.
Training is critical to help two job sharers with possibly different work styles and perspectives work well together, build trust and communicate effectively.
If job sharers can partner well, putting two heads together on a job can drive innovative thinking and positive outcomes.
Conversely, in the absence of a positive partnership, work continuity, productivity and quality will be affected.
To that end, organisations should adopt an outcome-based approach, particularly around the impact on the customer, to assess the effectiveness of job sharing arrangements.
The upsides to job sharing are likely to be limited if it does not maintain or create value for the customer.
Suffice to say there is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing job sharing that guarantees success. What is certain is that employment legislation in Singapore is supportive.
Also, organisations that are keen to explore job sharing can benefit from government support such as the Job Sharing Incentive offered by Workforce Singapore and be guided by resources such as the job sharing implementation guide by the Ministry of Manpower and Singapore National Employers Federation.
Given how the driving principles behind job sharing are well-aligned with the rise of agile workforces in the future of work, there is much growth potential for job sharing as an established form of flexible work.
The increasing use of digital technology in organisations should help to address the accountability and operational challenges of transitioning work from one job sharer to the other and lower the barriers of implementation.
Perhaps what is most important is a mindset shift in the vast majority of employers, to view job sharing as a normalised way of work, just as telecommuting has now become.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Samir Bedi is Asean workforce advisory leader at EY. These are his own views.
Related topicstelecommuting office worklife career job
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