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Increasingly, our modern world of work is being defined by more flexible work arrangements that try to retain skilled talent that otherwise isn’t able (or interested) to stay in traditional full-time roles. Job sharing is a primary example of this, where a full-time role (including compensation, work hours and holidays) is split equally between more than one employee under a specialized agreement.

On the surface, job sharing sounds ideal: part-time hours, part-time projects and only part-time headaches. Job shares in Canada are not overly common, however. For workers aged 25-55, common reasons for wanting reduced working hours such as job shares include needing to deal with child care or other personal reasons, such as illness or caring for aging parents or adult dependents. For older workers with specialized skills seeking more work-life balance, however, it might just be a personal preference. Altogether, Statistics Canada estimates that job sharing arrangements account for less than 10 per cent of alternate work arrangements involving reduced hours.

If you are considering job sharing, here are a few useful tips to keep your employer, co-workers and customers happy.

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If you would like your employer to be flexible with you, you need to be just as flexible. You may be paid part-time, but you still need to be aware of what is going on within the full-time scope of your shared work role. In other words, you need to know what goes on all week, not just during your part of the week. Make sure that you and your job-share partner communicate well and hand off the task process to ensure things don’t slip through the cracks. There may also be times when your employer needs you to come in on your day off for a staff meeting that requires everyone’s presence, or maybe you need to cover for someone who is away that day. In any scenario, strive to be as flexible as your employer has been.

Customer Service

If your role deals with customers, and most do in some form, issues need to be addressed immediately – not just when you are back at work. Again, this means having good protocols with your job-share partner for addressing issues as they happen, instead of deferring until one of you is back on duty. If needed, take extra time to deal with something outside of your normal work hours. For example, if you have a disgruntled customer on a Wednesday and you do not work until the following Thursday, deal with it on Wednesday regardless. Especially if your job-share partner is not able to deal with a particular matter that is part of one of your projects, do not let an unhappy customer sit hanging.

No Excuses

Never use your job-share arrangement as an excuse not to be aware of a project, or for not being able to finish something. Doing so will work to your disadvantage, and potentially affect other job-share opportunities if you do. A job share should be seamless, and not make additional work for others. Again, the employer is being flexible and taking risks that a traditional model of work doesn’t have. Your part is to make sure the job share is hardly noticeable.

Pick your partner carefully

It goes without saying: If your partner looks good, you look good. Alternately, if the job is not being done correctly, it will fall on you equally – even if your partner is to blame. Be mindful of who your job-share partner is, as they can have a huge influence on how you are perceived at work and how a job share is working for your department. Instead of looking at one another as mere co-workers, you really need to consider that other person to be a business partner. That means constant communication, regular updates on work matters and any other relationship-building activities that you need to do in order to make sure you and your partner work well together.

Credit needs to be given to employers who employ job-sharing arrangements. To be fair, job shares bring a different set of challenges, not more, as many employers believe. Ultimately, they can have significant benefits for both sides if done correctly, and with each side committed to their success.

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