Melissa Nicholson is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse, A Job Share Solutions Firm. Melissa’s background include five years as co-founder of a film company and 14 as a marketing & sales professional in the radio industry, including nearly a decade of practical hands-on experience job sharing. Today she leads Work Muse to drive adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance.
What exactly is a job share?
Melissa Nicholson: Job sharing is a partnership between two people to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Job share success is dependent on a good fit for the employee, the right partner, and management support.
It’s clear that the world of work is rapidly changing. Millennials through Boomers want to work flexibly, but few flexible work practices allow for employees to rest, recharge, and return each week engaged. Job sharing does. This is particularly relevant to older workers who tend to prioritize their time differently.
What are some specific advantages of a job share for workers who are 50-plus?
Melissa Nicholson: Job sharers of every generation experience a greater work-life balance, but there are some advantages those over 50 might benefit from even more.
The most striking benefit is enabling part-time work in a high-impact role. Workers over 50 have put decades into their career to achieve senior positions; job sharing means they don’t have to give up their role in order to work part-time. They can continue thriving at work while actively decreasing stress they might feel around outliving their retirement savings or being able to afford long-term medical care down the line.
We all know the United States is a live-to-work society, but globalization and advances in technology have taken work demands to a new unsustainable level. Time can be especially meaningful to older workers. Job sharing allows them to spend time with a retired spouse or grandchildren and do the things they didn’t have time to experience while raising kids. They can stay in the game and have the income and security they need.
Older workers might be the primary caretaker of their aging spouse or even their own parents. They might also have personal health concerns that necessitate the need to work fewer hours. Job sharing addresses these needs.
Zest for the job.
Purpose and community can also be a motivating factor for older workers to remain working. The number one benefit existing job share teams highlight is the job share partner relationship itself! Partners express increased satisfaction and happiness working in a job share. But above all, they support one another in life and work. When personal tragedy happens, like the death or illness of a loved one, partners often step-in to not only ensure work doesn’t suffer, but support their partner through it until they are ready to return able to focus on work.
Employers have been slow to adopt the job share model. Why does it make particular sense for them to consider job sharing solutions as they look to adapt to our aging workforce?
Melissa Nicholson: More than half of American baby boomers plan to work past 65 or not retire at all. Companies need seasoned employees for many reasons: Older employees have decades of experience leading to institutional knowledge and cultivated business relationships that can’t be replicated, they’re loyal (saving companies expensive replacement costs), and they enjoy sharing their knowledge base with others. Companies can hire, retain, and support workers over 50 with training and education opportunities as well as flexible work practices like job sharing.'Companies can hire, retain, and support workers over 50 with training and education opportunities as well as flexible work practices like job sharing.'Click To Tweet
Cross-generational job sharing pairs older employees with those of a younger generation to professionally develop one another and leverage both their skill sets for the role. It’s an innovative succession planning strategy to retain workers over 50 much longer while developing their successor in the process.
Research highlights that diverse workspaces can lead to better outcomes and profits for companies, but diversity doesn’t just mean employees of different genders and backgrounds, it also means diversity of age.
What steps should a 50+ worker take to move forward with a job share at their organization?
Melissa Nicholson: Job sharing is not for everyone so it’s important to make sure it’s right for you. The personal and career rewards are great, but you’ll be sharing your career, income, and personal life with your partner, and the stakes are higher. Ask yourself: Are you a committed high performer who’s organized and detail-oriented? Do you enjoy collaborating? Are you a good communicator with a flexible attitude who’s trustworthy and trusting of others? If you exhibit a majority of these qualities, you could be a good candidate for job sharing.
Your partner does not need to be just like you or job sharing for the same reason, but they should share similar values and work ethic as you.
The strongest way to get a job share approved is to make the business case to your employer as a pilot program the first 6 months. Think through how your position could be shared and demonstrate how the arrangement will benefit your company. Most managers have never worked with a job share and you’ll need to address their fears and concerns around communication and accountability. Educate through examples, show your understanding of the role and how it can be worked as a job share, and highlight your flexibility and commitment to your job share’s success.
Job sharing can be one of the most rewarding ways to work if you are set with the right partner, best practices, and policies that protect your arrangement, including benefits and salary.