Job Sharing

​​An arrangement that allows two or more people to share the responsibilities of one full-time position, with each of them working part-time. They usually work at different times during the day/week or alternate weeks, and may have a time of overlap to maintain continuity. The work may be divided by function, geography, time or workload etc., depending on the arrangement.

Pay, holidays and other benefits are usually proportionate to the number of hours worked. Job-sharing is a form of part-time arrangement that provides organisations with the equivalent of one full-time employee. Job-sharing employees also get to keep their careers on track while having more time for personal and/or family responsibilities and pursuits.

There are three basic types of job sharing arrangements:
  • Shared Responsibility

    This is where two employees jointly share the responsibilities of one full-time job. They perform the full range of tasks associated with the single position they fill. They are interchangeable in their areas of work. This is most suited where work is on-going rather than project-based.

     
  • Divided Responsibility

    In a divided responsibility arrangement, two employees share one full-time position and divide responsibilities, usually by project or client group. They perform separate tasks and provide back up for each other when necessary. This is most suited when the work can be divided according to project or client group.

     

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It is also important to note that, even within each form of job sharing arrangement, there is a variation in the scope of duties which employees perform. The two extremes in the scope of job share duties will be employees who have no interactions in their duties and those who are jointly responsible for all duties. However, most job sharing duties will fall between the spectrum of the two extremes in different variations; in which employees have their own individual duties but also have shared duties, both varying in a case-by-case basis.​

 


Some common work patterns using a 5-day workweek include:
  • Split days, e.g. mornings or afternoons
  • Split weeks, e.g. 2.5 consecutive days each
  • Alternating split weeks, e.g. 2 days on Weeks 1 & 3, and 3 days on Weeks 2 & 4
  • Alternate weeks, e.g. 5 consecutive days followed by the next week off

Benefits to Employers
  • A wider pool of expertise & increased skills for ideal post
  • Increase productivity (less stress)
  • Retain valued employees who may be seeking early retirement
  • Provides a recruitment edge but low cost to introduce and maintain
  • Improved coverage/continuity compared to other flexible work arrangements

Benefits to Employees
  • Reduced stress when workload is heavy
  • Flexible option for return to work
    • Employees on a career break
    • Women returning from maternity leave
  • Greater flexibility to cope with other commitments, e.g. caring for elderly parents
  • Bridge gap between steady career job and retirement (ageing workforce)​
  • For employees
    ​A self-assessment may be useful for employees to consider the various aspects involved in ensuring a successful job sharing arrangement.
    A Sample List of Issues to Consider when entering a Job Sharing Arrangement may be found here.
  • For employers
    The organisation's HR team will have to decide on an ideal strategy based on the combination of both business goals and employee needs, i.e. shared responsibility or divided responsibility.

    Example 1 – Shared Responsibility
  • Employee AEmployee B

    Personal Assistant to Director

    High level job grade

    Many years of experience in the job position

    Oversees and trains new Personal Assistants

    Personal Assistant to Manager X

    Junior level job grade

    Fresh graduate with 1 year of experience

     


    Under the Job Sharing arrangement, both Employees A & B would be personal assistants to the director. Employee A would work on Tuesday and Thursday while Employee B would work on Wednesday and Friday. To ensure a seamless transition and co-ordination of tasks, there would be an overlap on Monday when both employees come in to work to sort out the Director's schedule and activities for the week ahead. In the initial week(s), Employee A would oversee and train Employee B in her new role; while Employee B would train her replacement as the Personal Assistant to Manager X (i.e. previous post).

    Example 2 – Divided Responsibility

    Employee CEmployee D

    Experienced Account Manager for S.E.A.

    Sales

    Supervise salesmen dealing with S.E.A. clients

    Senior job grade

    Experienced Account Manager for Singapore

    Sales

    Supervise salesmen dealing with Singapore clients

    Senior job grade

    Unlike Example 1 above where both jobs are on-going, Employees C and D's jobs are client-focused. Therefore, a strategy based on divided responsibility may be more appropriate for this instance. Under the job sharing arrangement, both Employees C & D would be Account Managers for S.E.A. Sales. Employee C would supervise salesmen dealing with Malaysian and Indonesian clients and work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Weeks 1 & 3, and on Tuesday and Thursday on Weeks 2 & 4. Employee D would supervise salesmen dealing with Thai and Vietnamese clients and work on Tuesday and Thursday on Weeks 1 & 3, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Weeks 2 & 4. In the initial week(s), Employee C would perform a handover of the Thai and Vietnamese portfolio while Employee D would train his replacement Account Manager for Singapore Sales (i.e. previous post). Although Employees C & D work quite independently in this example, they would still meet periodically (e.g. after their department meetings or individual meetings with supervisor, etc.) to discuss client needs and ensure that both groups of clients are receiving the same high quality of service.  

    A Sample Checklist on Issues to Consider before implementing Job Sharing can be found here.

    As the number of hours worked may lead the employees to fall into the part-time work category, it is very important for the senior management to be aware of the statutory requirements and regulations set forth for part-time employment, before embarking on the prospective arrangements with employees.​

    Please refer to the Ministry of Manpower's website for more details on employment regulations.

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If the barri​ers to job sharing cannot be resolved, the organisation/employee may consider other types of flexible work arrangements.

Communication

The practice of job sharing is fairly new in Singapore, and organisations who adopt this practice may choose to draft informational handouts to inform employees of job share opportunities.  Employers should include the objectives, eligibility criteria and desired outcomes of the job share arrangement.

Regular communication is essential to ensure the working dynamics between employees on the job sharing arrangement and their co-workers is positive. Therefore, department meetings should be scheduled on days where the employees overlap, where applicable. It is also important that job sharing teams on a shared responsibility strategy communicate frequently with each other.

A job sharer is required to communicate in a timely manner with clients of fellow job sharers. This is necessary so that the level of service to the clients can be maintained.

Characteristics of Successful Job Sharers

  • Individual traits
    • Good communication skills
    • Amicable personality
    • Strong team player
    • Loyal to the company
    • Values job
  • Job sharing team traits
    • Similar positive personality traits, e.g. both are amicable, responsible, etc.
    • Able to work both independently and in a group
    • Complementary abilities and knowledge of product/service
    • Complementary and consistent working habits/styles
    • Similar or compatible grade level i.e. experience, seniority, etc.

Job Descriptions

Employers should set clear and detailed job descriptions and guidelines for the new job share position.

Guidelines for two job sharers at the same grade level who are jointly responsible for all the duties and responsibilities of one full-time position:
  • There is no need to restructure position
  • Each team member should have a copy of the original position description with an attached statement to show that the incumbent is a job sharer jointly responsible for carrying out all the duties and responsibilities of the position
Guidelines for two job sharers who are individually responsible for portions of the job, or when the job sharers are at different grade levels:
  • Separate position descriptions to reflect actual duties and responsibilities of each employee
  • Have a position description that accurately reflects each job sharer's duties and responsibilities

The Role of Immediate Supervisors

A job share team should report to the same supervisor. If the new job scope is similar to their previous job scope, they should report to their previous supervisor who may have better understanding of the needs of the team.

Supervisors and co-workers play an important role in the dynamics in each job share team. Therefore, organisations should also consider providing training in work-life effectiveness for supervisors of job sharing employees.

Absences

The management should also discuss how vacations, absenteeism and sick leave may be covered. Questions to consider include:
  • To what extent would the above be covered by another co-worker in the same department?
  • To what extent would the above be covered by the fellow job sharer?
  • What should the pay of job sharer(s) be for working on an off day?

A possible solution, especially in the case of absences not due to sickness, e.g. unpaid leave, might be getting a fellow job sharer to switch work days with the employee on leave.

Performance Evaluation

Organisations are advised to set performance standards for each job sharing team to ensure performance is not compromised. They should also reward job sharers individually or as a team where appropriate.
For example:

  • Individual Evaluation
    • Specific role, e.g. training fellow job sharer
  • Joint Evaluation
    • For shared tasks and responsibilities to promote teamwork

Supervisors should use the same evaluation standards for each employee to avoid biasness in their evaluation. 

Shared Space and Equipment

Where possible, job sharers should be given individual job stations and equipment, especially in instances of heavy client load or access to confidential/sensitive information. This will help to increase efficiency and reduce time spent searching for client files in a shared work space. 

However, if space is an issue, the management should set strict guidelines for job sharers to respect shared space and equipment to maintain a positive team environment. It can also consider allowing telecommuting to reduce the need for a physical office station.

Pilot Study/Trial Period

Organisations are encouraged to have a pilot study or a trial period before embarking on the job sharing arrangement. This is especially important if it plans to design a strategy which involves a significant number of employees.

Organisations should consider the number of employees to be involved in the pilot study. At this stage, employees selected are often those with experience. The duration of the trial period also needs to be determined.

Job Sharing Agreement

Before implementation, the management should meet with the HR team to draft guidelines for job sharers and their supervisors. Amongst the factors to consider would be non-negotiable elements such as maintaining productivity. Feedback should also be sought and concerns expressed by employees should be addressed in the guidelines.

An agreement between the employee and the organisation which clearly outlines the work schedule, equipment used, and any other relevant details of the job sharing arrangement between the parties involved should be drafted. This helps to create a mutual understanding of the job roles and manage expectations.

The next step after implementation is to evaluate the entire programme. Two key issues to consider throughout this process are:

  • whether the identified business aims/goals are satisfied, and
  • whether the employee needs are met

A job sharing arrangement should be supported if there are no adverse effects to the way the organisation functions. Performance feedback should be sought from the job sharer’s immediate supervisor and co-workers, where appropriate, in assessing performance and productivity.

To assess the programme’s cost effectiveness, another cost-benefit analysis may be conducted. It is not uncommon for the cost of hiring to increase especially in the case where two employees are hired for one position. In the long run, the potential monetary and qualitative benefits often outweigh the initial costs. Organisations benefit through retaining its valued employees and hence reducing the cost of training a new employee for the position.

Furthermore, business needs may not always primarily be about saving costs. Although having two skilled and experienced employees for one post may increase cost, they will also be able to give more views and better ideas due to their expertise in the particular field. Some clients see the value of having this expertise and may even be willing to pay more for it, thereby giving the organisation an increased edge against competitors.