We hear how job-sharing can improve engagement and effectiveness – and what the civil service is doing to support it
Two job-sharers can be more effective than one full-time employee, according to speakers at a Civil Service Live session on sharing and part-time work.
“Two brains can definitely be better than one,” said Hazel Hobbs, who shares her job as director of strategy and engagement at the Government Digital Service with Emily Ackroyd. “We bat about ideas between us and I think often come to better decisions,” she said.
She added that flexible working was one of the main reasons she had stayed in the civil service and that departments and agencies that allowed job-sharing and part-time working gained access to a wider range of potential staff. “I don’t think I’d ever go back to working full-time out of choice,” she said.
Emma Cole, a job-sharer for Civil Service HR, said that part-time roles needed careful managing. “We too often try to squeeze five days into three,” she said.
She added that it made sense to set clear, stretching but realistic objectives, ideally including a corporate objective that both inspires and helps to get the employee noticed.
Those considering job-sharing should not believe the myth that they have just one perfect partner, said Cole.
She has shared jobs with three other people, none of whom she knew well at the start, and none ended because of personality clashes. “Don’t feel it has to be forever. Just go for it,” she said.
Cole added that there were different models of job-sharing, including "Lennon and McCartney" where two people share everything and "shadow and share" where each person has their own responsibilities which are shadowed by the other. Ideally, both sharers should work three days a week, allowing an overlap day for handover and joint meetings.
Currently, 24% of civil servants work part-time, with nearly 84,000 women and nearly 18,000 men falling into that category. Fewer receive top performance ratings than the average, but slightly more feel highly engaged in their work.
Civil Service HR has set up an online matching service for those interested in job-sharing, which has helped 50 civil servants into shared roles including nine women at SCS1 director level and 31 people at grades six or seven. At present 1,786 civil servants are registered, with 80% women, 20% from black and minority ethnic groups, 10% disabled and 7% LGBTI. Nearly half live outside London and south-east England.
Product manager at Civil Service HR Brian Stanislas said the scheme had focused on the five largest departments – DWP, HMRC, MoD, MoJ and the Home Office – as they employed around three-quarters of civil servants. But he said the scheme was open to others.
He said Civil Service HR planned to add specific adverts for job-share roles to the case studies and advice already on the site over the next few months.