The Disadvantages of Job Sharing

by Molly Thompson, Demand Media
    Job sharing may cause some loss of each individual's workplace identity.

    Job sharing may cause some loss of each individual's workplace identity.

    If you're looking for a change in your work-life balance -- maybe you want more time at home with a new baby -- you might be thinking about job sharing. Before you jump in, be sure you can handle the potential down sides. You'll have to establish and maintain constant, effective communication with the other person; you can't just do it your way. You'll both become halves of the same whole, interchangeable in some people's minds, so you risk losing your individual professional identity, becoming instead the "Tuesday-Thursday person" or even, "Which one are you?" And, of course, your shoe-shopping budget will take a definite hit.

    Income and Benefits

    Job sharing arrangements usually mean a substantial drop in income. This can be a tough pill to swallow, particularly if you're used to a full-time job and the full-time income that comes with it. This may be somewhat offset by lower clothes and gas bills, since you're not driving to the office each day or needing as many office-appropriate outfits. Even so, you'll probably still need to make some changes to your spending habits: It's tough to justify all those great new suits if you're not dressing for work each day. You might also find yourself paying more for benefits or doing without them altogether, depending on how your employer chooses to cover the job sharing position.

    Who's In Charge?

    Both partners in a job sharing situation must be willing to do whatever aspects of the job fall on their assigned days. You each have to be able to pick up right where your partner left off, regardless of who's nominally in charge of a particular project. You've probably heard it's bad form to say "it's not my job," when asked about something at work -- this goes double for job sharing. It is your job, whether or not you started it, are in charge of it or like the approach being taken. You've also got to be thick-skinned enough to get blamed if something goes wrong with a project, whether it's "your" project or not.

    Sharing the Workload

    On paper, job sharing is an equal division of virtually all aspects of a single job. It's not like shift work or part-time work; rather, it's one full-time job being done by two separate people. But just because you both put in 20 hours each week doesn't mean the workload is always shared equally. If both of you don't have the same work ethic or commitment to making the most of your hours at work, it's easy for resentment to creep in toward whichever partner isn't carrying her weight.

    Competition or Cooperation

    Job sharing can put even strong friendships to the test. If partners maintain effective communication and share complete information about ongoing projects, it's possible to maintain a cooperative working arrangement. But what if one partner seems to get all the kudos or attention from the boss? Or continually leaves piles of work for the other, while doing only the quick or easy parts of the job herself? All of a sudden, cooperation becomes competition, threatening both the working relationship and the job sharing arrangement.

    About the Author

    Molly Thompson has been writing for classified U.S. government presentations and publications since 1980. She holds B.A. degrees in psychology and political science from Wellesley College, as well as an M.A. in Russian area studies from Georgetown University. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis/research company and is also a professional genealogist.

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