The Cross-Gender Job Share That Finishes Each Other’s Sentences

At a time when women are much more likely to be a principal breadwinner, don’t you think it’s time to reward—not stigmatize—men who take parental leave and flexible work? Men who desire to co-parent their children. Who have the audacity to job share.

I for one, do. So when a former male colleague who had job shared himself (whom incidentally, is not a parent but is an involved community member), emailed introducing me to partners JJ Kempler and Jessica Dvorscak, I took note.

The duo’s lighthearted reply including the hashtag #jobshareproblems hinted at the affectionate, fun relationship these classic work spouses share. So much so, they finish one another’s sentences.

If you ever wondered whether men job share, some do. Share this and perhaps more will.


cross-gender job share JJ Kempler & Jessica DvorscakCompany: Nexstar Media Group, KXAN-TV

Role: Senior Account Executive

Type: Client facing, fast-paced, creative & strategic

Getting started: JJ Kempler and Jessica Dvorscak started job sharing in Jessica’s position when she returned from maternity leave from having her first baby. JJ’s wife had just had their second baby.

How it works: JJ and Jessica work three consecutive days with a shared day on Wednesday for handover as well as one-on-one manager and sales meetings. They are interchangeable and responsible for all aspects of the role.


their job share story

Jessica: I got the job share itch when I was pregnant. A job share team hired away from a competitor had proven successful for our company.

Luckily, my supportive manager promised, “Trust me, I’ll make this happen.” But nothing was finalized before my leave and I was nervous. During my leave, she asked, “What do you think about job sharing with JJ?” and I was like, “Yeah!”

JJ: I was a marketing manager and oversaw sales initiatives for the KXAN sales team. Jessica and I had worked together, just in a different capacity. 

Work Muse: That’s pretty innovative on your manager’s part. It shouldn’t matter why someone wants to job share, only that it’s a great fit.

JJ: Right. That’s why I brought it to my manager’s attention. The main reason I wanted to job share was our second child. My wife owns a clothing boutique. It’s demanding and she was struggling to run it with a new baby. So when this came around, I started thinking about it and put it out there. And…

Jessica: It made sense.

JJ: For both of us. I took a step back but not in a negative way. We’ve been working together for over seven years now. Luckily, we helped prove the point a bit (chuckles). We’re still there.

Jessica: We’re still there!

Work Muse: Do you want to job share together forever? 

JJ: She’s threatened me with my life (breaks into a Cheshire grin).

Jessica: I tell him that if he ever leaves me, I’ll kill him.

JJ: There’s definitely a comfort level. A trust.

Jessica: It would be hard for me to imagine job sharing with someone else. We’re alike in a lot of ways and different too.

During my leave, she asked, “What do you think about job sharing with JJ?” and I was like, “Yeah!”

differences strengthen job share teams

Work Muse: Are you more alike or different?

JJ: She’s definitely the high energy. I’m more even-keeled.

Jess: Our personalities might be different but the way we work is similar. I can’t imagine being the calm one. He just is. There have been a few instances where I’m like, “I’m calling him!”

JJ: I’m always surprised when nine out of ten times If I ask Jessica, “How would you handle this?” it’s the exact same way I would.

Jess: We definitely have our own strengths. JJ is the problem solver.  I’m the presenter. When I panic, “Oh my God! It’s not gonna work,” he says, “We can do it. This is how we’re gonna work it out.” 

Work Muse: What were some challenges you faced initially?

JJ: Our co-workers were surprised I was job sharing. When the word got out, I think a few guys at the office wondered, “Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s been seven years and we still get emails that say, “Hey ladies.”

Jessica: Oh yeah, all the time (both laugh).

JJ: I write back and just go with it (winks).

Wednesdays are always crazy, but we accomplish so much as two people. It’s awesome!

hidden benefit #1

Job sharer JJ Kempler familyWork Muse: Has job sharing changed how you parent?

JJ: It’s made a huge difference. I’m home on Mondays and Tuesdays while my wife runs her company. I coach my kids’ soccer teams and have one-on-one time with them. I hadn’t totally thought through that benefit beforehand, but this time together has been a huge plus. It’s why we have a great relationship. 

Jessica: I’ve found the same with my husband, a photographer who works from home. I would say my husband and I have a very shared “lead” parent situation. I mean, we have a min-van and it’s the “kids” minivan. It goes with the kids.

what to know about job sharing

Work Muse: Oh my gosh, we have the same! What would you say to someone thinking about job sharing?

Jessica: Job sharing means work-life balance. I always joke that I’m the only person who can’t wait to come to work on Mondays! Everyone else is like, “Oh my God, it’s Sunday night.” By Sunday, I’m like, “Time for me to go to work!” We’re way more productive. Two heads are better than one!

JJ: I think there’s that extra accountability. By the time something gets to our manager, we’ve already flushed it out. I’m more worried about having Jessica’s back and making sure everything’s done right. 

Jessica: Yeah, we put our heads together and this is what we’re doing, just FYI. Our manager refers to us as “the go-to.” They can count on us. Someone is always there! 

JJ: You have to have the right partner. I know I can count on Jessica. That work is getting done if I’m not there, and I don’t have to worry.

how they work with clients

Work Muse: What would clients say is the biggest benefit and how do you work with them?

JJ: They’d say that we’re always there, especially around the holidays. If it’s the beginning of a relationship, we feel that it’s important for both of us to be there. If not, they’ll gravitate toward one person or the other, so we always try to start together. That way everybody gets it. A couple still don’t (both laugh).

Jessica:  Personality-wise, there are some clients that I gravitate toward and vice versa. We’re more alike than different, and we have a very similar worth ethic, work philosophy and view of the politics of things.

how they set work boundaries

Work Muse: What are your work boundaries?

JJ: Truthfully, I think we talk less than most. 

Jessica: The longer we do it, the less we find we need to talk on our “off” days. We work by email. I literally start an email Monday and write out everything I accomplish. In addition, there’s a “to-do” list and it better be under five items (throws a look to JJ).

JJ: Ha! It doesn’t have to be, but we shoot for it!

Jessica: I literally want to come to work on Monday. I’m ready!

JJ: We don’t work harder outside of our scheduled workdays, but we work harder at work because we never want to leave the person anything to do. That helps keep it fluid and functioning at a high level.

Jessica: It’s a game! We love a short to-do list.

hidden benefit #2

job sharer Jessica Dvorscak's familyWork Muse: Has your partner stepped in when life handed you a curveball?  

Jessica: My mom had to go into a nursing home and then my dad was diagnosed with cancer and died just two months later. While I was traveling, handling business affairs and selling her home—and my kids were really little—JJ was picking up the slack. And it was never even a conversation we had.

JJ: I don’t think it ever would be.

Jessica: I would do the same thing for him. From the management standpoint, if it had just been me, it would have been really hard for my manager and clients.

JJ: There are no negatives we can think of. It’s all been positive for us. If I was a manager, I’d want to hire job shares. I would.

Jessica: The thing is we’re way happier than full-timers! We always say Wednesday is the best day!

JJ: The downside of being so close is that we only see each other once a week.

Jessica:  It’s like a good marriage though. You know, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

advice to future job sharers

Work Muse: What’s your advice for someone who wants to job share?

Jessica: Find the right partner. That’s critical.

JJ: And just—to ask. Have a conversation with the person who can facilitate that decision. I brought it up as a very casual, “Hey, what do you think of this?” And it was met with, ”Oh, that’s interesting” It wasn’t a new concept but thinking about it for a man was a new idea.

Jessica & JJ: Yeah, just ask!

 

 

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Melissa Nicholson job shared for nearly a decade and is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse. Work Muse drives the adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance. Join the #JobshareRevolution here.

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