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Job sharing: The benefits of splitting one job between two people — but how does it work?

collage of people working together
collage of people working together

Some may recall job sharing from the 1970s.

Back then, the concept was used mostly as a way for women to get back into the workplace after having kids, by allowing two people to share one job.

James Neave, MBA, head of data science at Adzuna, in London, believes there’s a renaissance in job sharing, in part as a response to increased demand from workers.

Job sharing dates back to the 1970s. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Job sharing dates back to the 1970s. Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Many employees feel that the return to the office will diminish the flexibility they have retained over the last few years, and are searching for new ways of working that will allow them to maintain a better work/life balance,” said Neave.

Additionally, “More organizations are embracing job sharing as a recruitment and retention strategy,” said Erin Lau, director of service operations, Northeast region, at Insperity, a national HR provider.

Advertisements for such shared roles appear to be on the rise for Adzuna. Data from the job postings search engine shows that the proportion of job ads promoting job sharing has nearly doubled stateside since the pandemic, rising to 0.02% in January 2024 (1,532) from companies including Ford, PwC, Target, KPMG and Unilever.

Though these numbers are certainly still small, the growth of job sharing may hint at larger societal changes. “Since the pandemic, flexible working options are more in demand than ever, and the rise in employers promoting job shares reflects this,” said Neave.

Ahead, the perks of job sharing, along with what you should consider before applying for the job.

What is job sharing?

Job sharing refers to two part-time employees sharing the duties that would otherwise be shared by a single full-time employee. Getty Images
Job sharing refers to two part-time employees sharing the duties that would otherwise be shared by a single full-time employee. Getty Images

“Job sharing refers to a work arrangement where two or more employees voluntarily divide the tasks of one full-time position, with each person working part-time hours,” said Jeremiah Mostrom, chief revenue officer at Axios HR.

This doesn’t always mean that the hours are split 50/50; one person might work two full days a week, while the other works three. “In total, the overall hours worked by the employees who share the job are equivalent to the full-time hours for the job,” said Neave.

The pros of job sharing

Job sharing is a good option for people trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Getty Images
Job sharing is a good option for people trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Getty Images

“Job sharing can mean that two part-time employees are now completing the work of one, which can help both employees to manage their work-life balance,” said Lau. “Because the employees are no longer working full time, they are better able to handle personal obligations like school pickup or medical appointments.”

In a tight labor market, job sharing is also one way for employers to attract top talent in a creative, cost-effective way.

In Deloitte Global’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, 26% of Gen Zers and 20% of Millennials said job sharing could help improve work-life balance. Employers who want to hire young talent could leverage this as a strategy to stand out from their competitors.

Typically, job sharing reduces stress for everyone involved, which increases their ability to perform at their highest level of productivity. In addition, each person in the job share can review the other’s assignments, which can improve the quality of their work overall.

The drawbacks

When two people share one job, there is a risk of miscommunication. Getty Images
When two people share one job, there is a risk of miscommunication. Getty Images

“Constant handovers between job partners may result in loss of important information or misunderstandings,” said Mostrom, adding that good teamwork and collaboration skills are essential for successful job sharing. “Any discord or misalignment can negatively affect productivity.” Mostrom also noted that job sharing can result in higher employment costs.

Additional work created from the role split may also occur. “Job sharing has the potential to increase efficiency, but if it isn’t implemented correctly, the opposite can happen,” said Lau. “Depending on how the duties are split up, two part-time workers may be less efficient at the job than a single worker. To avoid confusion, they may need to communicate back-and-forth throughout the day, which can use up valuable time and hurt their productivity.”

Lau said it’s key for leadership to have conversations with frontline managers before they try to implement job sharing.

What type of job sharing is best for you?

Employers might like job sharing because they would not necessarily have to pay out of health insurance or retirement. Getty Images
Employers might like job sharing because they would not necessarily have to pay out of health insurance or retirement. Getty Images

First, be aware that you should not typically expect a robust benefits package if you go the shared job route.

“An advantage for employers who hire people to job share is they may be able to avoid paying out full health benefits, 401(k) and paid time off to two part-time employees,” said Scott Lieberman, founder of Touchdown Money in West Palm Beach, Fla., who has been on the HR hiring committee of various companies for more than 10 years. “For example, the Affordable Care Act requires employers to offer health insurance to employees working at least 30 hours per week (or 130 hours per month).”

Job sharing can nevertheless be a win-win for certain small businesses and individuals who might not need employer-provided health care.

What roles work for this setup?

Healthcare is a viable sector for job sharing. Getty Images
Healthcare is a viable sector for job sharing. Getty Images

“Roles that demand deep immersion into long-term projects, like some software development roles, may not easily be shared, and the same is true of roles requiring highly niche skill sets,” said Neave.

So, consider your industry. “There are two specific areas where job sharing could be a great option. The first includes jobs that require continuous interaction, such as those in customer service or health care,” said Mostrom. “The second area includes roles that could benefit from shared responsibilities.”

Naeve added that nonsupervisory roles with immediate or short-term projects, such as administrative assistants or factory line workers, can also be a good fit for job sharing.

How does it work?

There is the ‘twin’ and ‘island’ models of job-sharing. Getty Images/iStockphoto
There is the ‘twin’ and ‘island’ models of job-sharing. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The two most popular job-sharing strategies are the “twin” model, where each employee in the job share has identical duties and works with the other as a team; and the “islands” model, where each employee has different duties that meet their unique skills, said Lau. Likewise, there are several options for scheduling, depending on the model.

“‘Twin’ job sharers might have a split-day or split-week arrangement where they work different hours on the same day or different days of the same week,” she said, whereas “islands” job sharers might work the same hours.

However it’s split, job sharing can prove an ideal setup for many.

“This work arrangement allows individuals to maintain a work-life balance and fulfill personal obligations while also pursuing their professional goals,” he said.