Transcript: 7 Job Share Myths Debunked

Melissa Nicholson

MELISSA NICHOLSON: Even people who job share or work with job shares have many of these same misconceptions, and sadly, they spread them so they limit other people from doing the exact practice they find so much work-life balance from doing themselves. So don’t let other people’s misconceptions stand in your way of job sharing.


INTRO: Welcome to Job Share Revolution. The show about job sharing—a partnership between two people to bring two minds and skill sets to one full-time position. I’m Melissa Nicholson, former job sharer turned founder of the first U.S. job share company. But it wasn’t long ago that I felt like an utter failure at work and as a new parent. Job sharing was my game-changer. I reclaimed four days a week to fully engage in my life while my capable partner handled everything. Together, we achieved more than I ever could solo. Fast forward to many lessons learned to bring you the training and support I wish I’d had to change lives and the modern-day workplace. Let’s live life and slay work.


MELISSA: Well, hello future job sharer. Or maybe you’re a past job share or a current job share, a DEIB professional, an HR professional, a manager, or a CEO. I think that if you fall into any one of those, you’re going to learn a lot from this episode today: 7 Job Share Myths Debunked. This is a lesson that I think everybody, whether you’re someone looking for job share or you’re an employer, really needs to understand these commonly held beliefs that hold the vast majority of people who’ve heard of and thought about job sharing from ever following through to manifest their job shares.

These same misinformed beliefs are the reason most employers turn down a job share. Knowing the myths and their realities will give you the confidence you need to propose a job share to your boss. If you’re a boss, knowing these myths is so important so that you don’t stand in the way of implementing a practice to help you retain and recruit diverse top talent.

This is really a big lesson. I hope that you will save it and come back to it so when you are feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome, thinking, “Who am I to job share? I don’t think it’s going to work in my job. I don’t think it’ll work at my company. I just don’t think that it’ll work for me”…

I want you to come back to this episode because this is your this is your superpower. Everything I am about to share is research from the largest job share study to date, the Job Share Project. The first thing I want to cover is who needs to understand the reality of job sharing: You, your boss, who’s maybe the most important person, your boss’s boss, or who they need to sell your job share to, HR, and your future job share partner. With HR, I don’t want you to think because they are HR, they know job sharing. Even if your company has a job share policy, they (HR) likely have some limiting beliefs around job sharing itself. So it’s important that your HR department understands the reality from the myths.

Debunking these myths will help you do three things: The first thing is to identify who will be a great job share partner for you. The second thing is that it will help you assess and gauge your organization and your manager’s familiarity with and beliefs around job sharing. And the third thing it will help you do if you are a future job sharer and you want to job share, you’ve got your eye on the job share ball. You’re going to sell the business case to your employer in such a way that they understand the massive benefits that your job share will bring to their business.

Myth #1:  job sharing is complicated. Here’s the reality: Although job sharing seems complicated, it is straightforward and simple in practice. Once job sharers put in the upfront work to decide the handover, decision-making, and communication processes, stakeholders overwhelmingly experience positive results working with them.

Ironically, the thing that managers fear most—accountability and communication—are the very things that job share partners shine in. The people who are drawn to job sharing are high achievers who are highly accountable to one another and create seamless communication systems. They’re like mega communicators. They want to be accountable to their partner and accountable to you, their manager.

Myth #2: job sharing is forever. So here’s the reality: job shares last on average two years. It’s very individual. And sometimes, people find the right partner and they really hit it off. They are aligned in their career goals and they move through their careers together. Much more prevalent is that people are in the middle of this life transition. They are job sharing through that transition. Whether they just became a new parent, they’re suddenly taking care of aging parents, they are dealing with a chronic health issue, or they have a spouse who has a health issue, or they’re getting an advanced degree. And a lot of times people job share for the period of time they need it. They go back to full-time work later, and then maybe, they job share again later down the line.

So job sharing definitely is not forever. Now your boss’s worry is going to be that job sharing is forever in the way that they’re stuck with it. Once they start working with job share teams, they’re going to realize they hope they’re stuck with it, because those teams become super teams.

Myth #3: Job sharing isn’t flexible. Your boss may assume that either the job share schedule isn’t flexible, or that the job shares themselves will be inflexible or unavailable during their off days. They’re thinking, “These people are not going to be flexible to come in when needed, or if needed during a day that they are not scheduled because they want to work in this part-time way.” But the reality is that job sharing is very flexible. I mean, this sounds so meta. Job sharing is flexible. It’s a flexible work practice. And the reality is that job sharing is flexible.

So, there are many ways to set up and implement a job share. The bottom line is that the job share is designed around the role and the needs of the company, not the individuals. So the days and the times of the week that each partner works and the shared or divided responsibilities, those parts are malleable, but the common element is a handover period and a seamless communication system. That is the common element of all job share arrangements. Job shares always have a handover period, and they’ve always got a communication system designed by that job share team.

Successful job sharers have flexible and willing attitudes. They go into the partnership knowing that they are there for their partner. They’ve got their back. They’re going to cover their partner during a parental leave or medical leave or an illness, and they’re going to attend important training and company meetings as a team on their off days when needed. Now, they’re going to need a little heads up around those important meetings that happen on their “off days.” But employers find that job share teams overwhelmingly will bend over backward to overdeliver.

Myth #4: Job sharing is for support roles, it won’t work in “this role” or “this industry.” This is a very common push back. In fact, it might be one of the top objections that people have when they approach their boss about job sharing. It’s just not going to work in “this role.” It won’t work for “your job.” It doesn’t work for “this industry.” It works in this other kind of role. Maybe it works in sales, but it doesn’t work in management. I’m just here to tell you that’s all B.S. quite frankly. It’s not their fault they don’t know employers haven’t been trained on job sharing. Employers typically don’t have robust job share programs, and there’s just an overall lack of awareness. So of course they naturally think job training is for support roles. It’s not going to work in this role or it’s not going to work in this industry. This person is a senior manager. They have a team of 20 people. They have direct reports. They’ve got this high-level job. They travel a lot.

But here’s the reality: Job sharing works in most roles, including sales and client-facing roles, leadership and team management roles, strategic and knowledge-based roles, fast-paced or highly transaction roles, and senior roles in global, fast-paced organizations. There are even lawmakers and CEOs who job share. No joke.

Just to give you a little bit of mojo and a stat that makes you feel really good about this job, sharing has moved up the pay scale. 80% of job shares are directors, senior level managers are manager level, 78% have at least ten years or more professional experience. So really, the truth is, job sharing, while it may have started in the ’70s as a way to retain women in the workforce, primarily in administrative roles, job sharing has come a long way baby. Job sharing can be done in almost any role, from a junior level role to a senior level role, and almost any industry. In fact, it works, particularly well in demanding high-impact roles, especially those jobs that are emotionally demanding, where you can really use that second brain—whether it’s for patients, for children…Think about educators, health care workers, legal minds. There are so many people who can job share.

Myth #5: Job sharers have a part-time mentality. We have a live-to-work culture in the U.S. as a result of this, there’s a lower percent of part-time workers. There’s a much higher percentage of part-time workers in European countries that have health care and childcare and parental leave, all of those things that allow for a social safety net so that people can work part-time and can enjoy the other parts of their lives. So the stigma is less, and the stigma against men also. In the US, we really face a stigma around flexible and part-time working. Employers may assume you’re less committed or you just want to work part time or you’re checked out. That’s not the case. The reality is, when we are talking about job sharing, we’re talking about people who are high achievers and highly committed, but they’ve got other aspects of their lives that they’re equally committed to—like their children, aging parents, their families, being a committed community member, their education, enjoying their lives.

There are other aspects that actually make them much better employees because they bring all of that into the job with them—all of the skills that they’ve gained in those other areas. These are people who are very committed. They’ve put so much into their careers, they just can’t do those careers any longer.

Let’s be frank. We’re not talking a 40-hour workweek. We’re talking a 50, 60, or 70 hour workweek. And while they might be remote working, a lot of times remote working means people are working around the clock. The reason that these folks want a job share is because they want to separate and prioritize their work life from their personal lives. They want to bring every ounce of energy that they have to their jobs and do it in a condensed workweek. Then, they hand over the work hat to their partner, and their partner takes the helm. They go rest, recharge, and return to work the next week, energized and raring to go. So job sharers don’t have a part-time mentality, they’re the opposite. They’re high-achieving, committed employees.

Myth #6: This may come up for employers, but it honestly is a misconception we often have. Myth number six is that job share partners must be an exact match to make it work. They must have the same personality or be of the same gender or background. Here’s the kicker:  the reality is that just as it is in companies where companies that are more gender diverse or ethnically diverse financially outperform their peers, the same is true for job share teams.

In your mind, you might be thinking, “I’m a mom of young children, so I want to find another mom of young children.” You might be looking for someone just like you, but think about it like a life partner. You don’t want a life partner who is exactly like you. You want someone who’s the yen to the yang. So the reality is, the most successful job share teams are those where their job share partner is not an exact match with them.

What you are looking for in a job share is compatible partners with complementary skill sets. So you’ve got the chemistry, you really have the gut instinct that this is a person that you can work with, that you trust. And they’ve got a skill set that complements yours. Not the same skill set is yours. You’ve got your strengths. You want to find someone who has strengths that you do not have and vice versa so that you professionally develop one another. You learn from one another. Those job share partners do not need to be of the same gender or background. They don’t even need to want to job share for the same reasons. They do benefit from a shared philosophy and approach to their role. They benefit from similar values. You want a partner who is in it with you, who’s going to take full responsibility for making this job share arrangement work. You don’t necessarily need someone of the same ethnic background, gender background, the same generational background, or the same religious background as you. You don’t need to job share with someone who’s just like you.

Trust me, when you’re looking for a job share partner, you really want to broaden your scope. You don’t even necessarily have to find the person who is in the exact role or position that you want to job share.

Okay, last myth—Myth #7: You need to know your partner beforehand to be successful. The reality is job share partners do not need to know one another or be from within the same organization to be successful. Finding your job share partner is easier than you think. Let it be known you’re interested in job sharing. Then, broaden your scope to include candidates of different backgrounds and those who might have different positions, but whose skills can complement yours to elevate the role itself.

So my friend. That’s it. Those are the seven myths. I’ve got a great cheat sheet for this, and we’ll put it in the show notes so that you can grab it. Make sure that you save this episode. Share this episode. Especially if you’re looking for a job share partner and you’ve got some folks in mind. Share this episode with them.

I will go over them one more time so we just have them in our heads. Myth number one: job sharing is complicated. The reality is job sharing is straightforward and simple in practice. Myth number two: job sharing is forever. The reality: job sharing lasts on average two years and some people job share for decades together. Myth number three: job sharing isn’t flexible. So the job share arrangement itself is flexible. It can be set up in a variety of ways, and those individuals who job share are flexible-minded. Myth number four: job sharing is for support roles. It won’t work in “this role” or “this industry.” The reality is job sharing works in most roles. Myth number five: job sharers have a part-time mentality. Job sharers are high achievers. they just want to spend less time doing their job. They’ve put a lot into their careers and they’re highly committed to them. Myth number six: job sharers must be an exact match to make it work. The reality is, job shares are more successful if they are not an exact match. And myth number seven: you need to know your partner beforehand to be successful. The reality is job share partners do not need to know one another at all to be successful.

There you have it. So I’m eager to know where the is going off for you right and left. I’d really like to know. DM me. I’m on Instagram at workmuse. I definitely had a few misconceptions when I was just starting out job sharing. Even people who job share or work with job shares have many of these same misconceptions, and sadly, they spread them to other people so that they limit other people from doing the exact practice they find so much work-life balance from doing themselves.

They think it only works with a partner of the same background because they chose a partner of the same background. They don’t know any other job shares, so don’t let other people’s misconceptions stand in your way of job sharing. That’s why knowing these myths and debunking them is so important. It’s like a bad rumor; you don’t want it to spread.

So I want to ask you if you can do me a favor. If you’ve got a friend who, or better yet, a partner in mind, or a manager who could benefit from this research, can you share this episode with them?

Thank you for joining me today. I’ll see you next week. Same time, same place. Bye for now.

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