According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in February, 2018, over 21 million people chose to work part-time for noneconomic reasons. Generally speaking, this group did not really need the extra income, but they wanted to keep working on a limited-time basis. Your small business may have plenty of part-time jobs to offer. But, if you have openings that require full-time work and a budget that doesn’t allow you to hire full-time employees right now, then job sharing might be a reasonable option.
Like anything, setting up a job-sharing program has both upsides and downsides, and it’s not always the right choice when making hiring decisions. But, if you do it with appropriate planning and forethought (the keys to just about everything that small businesses do), it can provide a more-affordable alternative to meet your employment needs without hiring as many full-time employees.
How Job Sharing Works
In a nutshell, job sharing is exactly what it sounds like. Multiple employees (typically two) work part-time to meet the requirements of a single job. Each employee might be responsible for different tasks, or perform the same work at different times. They may work totally different hours, or their hours may overlap a bit, which would be great if they need updates to continue the work.
Small businesses can benefit from job sharing in a number of ways:
- Reduced costs: As long as each employee works only within the scope of part-time rules, the health and other benefits that you pay also fit within those rules. While you always have the option of exceeding the rules (as long as you do it consistently for all part-time employees), you can generally avoid certain extra costs.
- Potential increase in employee retention: Employees leave for many reasons. Some of them have family or other concerns that prevent them from working full-time (or lots of overtime). Providing a part-time option through job sharing can convince valued employees to stick around.
- Bringing extra skills and talent to one job: Job-sharers are not clones of each other. In most cases, they have differing abilities to some degree. If one job has a long list of requirements, you can assign tasks to take advantage of each employee’s strengths.
On the downside, your company can be affected as follows:
- Possible unemployment compensation claims: As a general rule, this is not an issue when you initially hire someone as a part-time employee. However, if one or both job-sharers were converted from full-time to part-time, they potentially have the right to file for unemployment compensation. And, depending on the rules for your state, terminating a part-time employee can also result in unemployment compensation requirements.
- Increased chances for errors: When two people do a single job, important details can fall through the cracks during the switch, typically due to poor communications between them. On the other hand, some jobs are not prone to these types of errors. For example, switching from one part-time receptionist to another during the day carries a very low risk in most situations.
- Potential for conflict: Job-sharers can become dissatisfied if they feel that the workload is not evenly distributed between them. If they see the arrangement as a competition, this viewpoint can either enhance or diminish the quality of their work. And, if errors occur, you can also witness cases of the blame game when one sharer points a finger at the other one.
- Fairness in compensation: In a perfect world, both job-sharers will always receive identical compensation packages. But, if one has greater responsibility than the other — or clearly produces more output — then you may offer different pay (particularly at performance review time). You can’t count on job-sharers to keep their compensation secret from each other.
Keys to Successful Job Sharing Arrangements
Now that you know the upsides and downsides of job-sharing, there are things that you can do to help ensure that the upsides prevail. Here are some things to think about:
- Consider identifying a compatible relationship between job-sharers: If one or both job sharers already work at your company, then you probably already know a lot about them. Employees who know and like each other are likely to form a great partnership.
- Look hard to create compatible pairings: Of course this can be particularly challenging when you hire both employees from the outside. Whether you know them or not, however, ask plenty of questions before setting up a job sharing arrangement to ensure that they both share a spirit of partnership and cooperation.
- Choose good communicators: Even if both sharers will clearly communicate with you and the people around them, they need to be willing and able to keep their partners informed, particularly since they may never see each other. If they tend to write things down, then they are more likely to help each other continue shared tasks seamlessly.
- Clearly define tasks and responsibilities: Both sharers should arrive at their jobs with a clear understanding of your expectations. Just as important, neither one should act as boss over the other, unless you specifically set it up that way.
- Arrange for emergency communications: While communication should be limited when a person is not at the workplace, questions do arise from time to time. Other employees should bring their questions to the person who is actively on the job. But you and that person should have a way to get in touch with the off-duty employee in emergency situations.
Job Sharing Might Be a Great Choice for Small Businesses
Particularly in the early days of your business, you may have more work than your budget allows for hiring. Job sharing might not be the ideal solution for all businesses. But if you do it well, it can definitely add more work power to your company.