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Want to job share? Here’s eight tips from two women who did it for 23 years

Flexible working is becoming more common. It might be part time, flexible hours or a job share.

Job sharing, where two employees share the responsibilities and duties of one full-time role, has been around for decades, but the most recent survey says only 0.4 percent of the workforce actually does it.

Maggy Pigott and Judith Killick job shared together for 23 years. They’re both lawyers and began their job share as section leader in the Criminal Appeals Office. One of them worked Monday to Wednesdays and the other worked Wednesdays to Fridays. They were promoted together and ended their career as joint chief executives of the Judicial Studies Board. They were also both awarded the CBE.

What advice do they have for other workers interested in job sharing? Here are eight tips they shared with BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

1. Job sharing can be great for work-life balance

“I really think it’s the best way of working,” says Maggy Pigott. “I’ve worked full-time, part-time and job shared and without a doubt, I would say job sharing is the best way to work. It’s a win-win for both the employer and the employee. You both gain.”

“In this world of 24/7 availability, to have a job share where you have time off to do other things is just wonderful and gives you that work-life balance.”

“While you’re not in the office, somebody else is taking responsibility for the work, so you’re freer in many ways than you would be otherwise,” adds Judith Killick.

2. Pick a compatible job share partner

“My advice is to find a partner with whom you’re compatible,” says Judith Killick. “In many ways, that’s probably the hardest thing to achieve. If you can find somebody at a similar level and with similar interests and attitudes, that’s a great start.”

“Maggy and I met through working in the same department and we happened to be at the same stage in life, having just had children and wanting to do this.”

“You could go to networking events and there are organisations who offer help and advice for meeting other people who want to job share. Some organisations do run registers of people who have said they want to job share.”

You and your job share partner don’t need to be exactly the same, according to Maggy Pigott. “Judith and I are very different people. If you are quite different and if you can complement each other, that’s wonderful because you can play to your strengths and you can help and coach each other on aspects of the job that the other one is better at. You can mentor each other and give feedback which other people might be more reticent to give you.”

“But I would say you have to have similar attitudes to work,” adds Maggy Pigott. “It wouldn’t work if one of us was a workaholic and the other wasn’t. You also certainly have to have similar attitudes towards leadership and management because you don’t want one playing off against the other.”

3. Be clear in how you would share the job

“Look at the job and analyse how you would share it,'' advises Judith Killick. “Lots of preparation is needed because the biggest thing you’re likely to encounter is that other people can’t imagine how it’s going to work.”

“We found that people said to us all the time, 'it’s fine for you and the job you’re doing, but you wouldn’t be able to job share my job.’ People find it very hard to envisage, so do a lot of preparatory work about how you are going to share it so you can answer those questions.”

4. Propose a trial period if there are concerns

“If people are doubtful about whether the job share would work, suggest doing it for a trial period,” says Judith Killick. “Be ready to give it a go.”

“I would have thought you’d most certainly find that if you’ve done your preparation, once people see how it can work, they would be convinced by it.”

5. Job sharers can’t be egotistical

“You do have to be someone who’s not too egotistical,” says Judith Killick. “If you’re the kind of person who wants to claim all the glory for something, then it probably wouldn’t work because any achievement is shared.”

“While one partner in the job share might be out front doing all the big stuff, the other is likely to be keeping the rest of the work on the road. It’s always a joint effort.”

6. Communication is key

“We always found it really important to make sure that we had some sort of handover note, or briefing to make sure the other one was up to speed,” says Judith Killick. “Communicating about the work and what was going on was really important.”

“You also need to communicate to people around you how the job share is working. How it’s serving those you serve; in our case, ministers and judges because we were working in the administration of justice in the public sector. It would be the same if you had clients. They would need to understand how it was going to work for them.”

7. Be aware of the salary implications

“If you’re working three days of the week, instead of five days, you have to be aware that you’ll get three fifths of the salary,” advises Maggy Pigott. “That is a consideration because for some people that isn’t an affordable option.”

8. You have to trust each other

“For a job share to work, you have to absolutely trust each other,” says Maggy Pigott. “If you’re not happy to hand over and let somebody else make a decision on what you’ve been dealing with, then it’s not going to work. Trust is fundamental.”

“The other rule we had was you must never unpick it, you must never come back and say ‘well, I would have done it a different way and therefore I’m going to change it’.”

More information and advice about job sharing can be found here.

You can listen to the full Woman's Hour discussion with Judith Killick and Maggy Pigott here.

Woman's Hour is on BBC Radio 4 on weekdays at 10am and at 4pm on Saturdays. You can catch up on all episodes via BBC Sounds.