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Today there’s no lack of things that can be shared. Vehicles are shared via SHARE NOW, overnight accommodation via couch surfing, green spaces via “garden sharing” and pets via “dog sharing.” This trend is also gaining ground in the workplace. At Daimler there are currently more than 250 “job sharers” at the management level — and that number is growing.
The term “job sharing” refers to a working time model in which two people work part-time and share a single job. This sounds good in theory, and it’s also successful in practice. My job at Daimler Corporate Communications has been a shared enterprise since the end of 2016. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been sharing the management of a department with Kristin Stegen. My previous tandem partner, Tini Mayer, moved on for the best of reasons: She is taking parental leave for the birth of her second child.
A model for everyone?
Most of the job sharers I know at Daimler are women. In addition to their jobs, they want — or simply need — time to take care of their children. Are there any men among the job sharers? I put this question to Angela Lechner, who is responsible for flexible work models at Human Resources. She reported that one sixth of the job-sharing partnerships at the Group are “mixed doubles.” Job sharing combinations of two men are rare, but they do exist.
The reasons for sharing a job are more diverse than one might think. They include caring for relatives, teaching, and pursuing a time-consuming hobby, for example. The big advantage of job sharing is that it enables individuals to occupy positions that are difficult to manage in “normal” part-time jobs. At Daimler, there are job-sharing partnerships at all levels, right up to senior management.
A worthwhile strategy
Reducing the number of work hours also means reducing one’s pay. However, for both of us the calculation is paying off. We’ve got a challenging task, a motivated team, a supervisor who gives us lots of leeway for organizing our work in tandem, and more free time.
I’ve got free Wednesdays, and Kristin has free Fridays. I use my day off to do things like picking up my three-year-old daughter from her daycare center earlier than usual. And I can also take care of private matters that I haven’t had time for from Thursday through Tuesday.
My three arguments in favor of job sharing
Working in tandem benefits not only the two job sharers personally but also the team, the manager, and the company as a whole. Here are my three arguments in favor of job sharing:
1. More areas of expertise: Best regards from a “Jack of all trades”
As a duo you can of course offer significantly more professional experience. Although Kristin and I are in our early forties, we have more than 30 years of combined job experience. Taken together, we have in effect completed a course of general studies ranging from mathematics to German language and literature, business administration, journalism, and art history. We’ve gathered experience abroad in India, Japan, England, and Sweden. And in our previous careers we’ve been responsible for speechwriting, marketing, and auditing, as well as HR and commercial vehicle communications. To cut a long story short, as a duo we are contributing not only more experience and more strengths but also more networking and more contacts.
2. More presence at the workplace: No delayed decision-making during vacations
It’s true that Kristin and I work “only” four days a week each — but it’s easier to reach one or the other of us throughout the week. We coordinate our vacations. Another advantage is that there’s no delay in decision-making when one of us is out of the office for a longer period of time. After one of us comes back, we don’t have to spend two days working through a long list of e-mails, because most of them have already been answered by our tandem partner.
When one of us answers an e-mail, we mark it with the code word “erl” — the German abbreviation for “done” — to let the other one know it’s been dealt with. Once in a while both of us will answer the same e-mail, but that’s an exception. And we practically never disagree about how to answer a given e-mail. However, having different points of view is a further advantage of a tandem.
3. More reflection: Two perspectives, better decisions
A tandem partner is a natural sparring partner. We’re convinced that by working together we arrive at better decisions than we would if we thought things over in isolation. My tandem partner often thinks of other aspects of an issue that I hadn’t thought of, or she might have had a similar case in the past, or an idea about where to get additional information.
In view of these arguments, we wonder why more people aren’t sharing jobs. One reason for that is certainly the higher costs for employers, because each of us works on this job for 30 hours a week. We use this extra time to discuss things, and each of us is working on a separate project in addition to her regular tasks. Another reason why job sharing is not more popular is that not all managers have had any experience with this model. However, that’s changing. Our supervisor is now a tandem fan, and he’s not the only one. Our colleague at HR, Angela Lechner, is getting more and more inquiries from other major companies about how the successful Daimler model works.
My three success factors for working in tandem
I’ve been lucky to have always had a job sharing partner that I’m very compatible with, not only professionally but also on the personal level. In our experience, these three factors should not be underestimated:
1. A willingness to compromise instead of competitiveness
There’s a saying, “There is no ‘i’ in ‘team’” – and that also applies to “tandem.” We make major decisions together — through dialogue, in a pragmatic and non-egotistical way. That means we have to curb our egos and find compromises instead of acting on the principle “There’s only one right way to do things.” Job sharing means give-and-take.
2. The common denominator: Diversity is good, but too much diversity makes things difficult
The two members of the tandem should have similar ambitions. If one member is focused on climbing the career ladder and the other one isn’t, the situation becomes difficult, in our opinion. It also helps to have a shared understanding of leadership. An old-school believer in hierarchies and an advocate of “laissez-faire” won’t be happy together. Nor will their team.
3. Trust: Tandems are not for control freaks
“Everything depends on trust” — that sounds good in bank advertisements, and it also applies to tandems. During her job interview, Kristin was asked, “What should your tandem partner never do under any circumstances?” She answered, “Not tell me the truth.” It may sound banal, but dishonesty and the deliberate withholding of information are poison for a tandem relationship. Job sharing means taking on responsibility together, while at the same time not having 100 percent control. If you’re not at the office, you have to trust your partner — if only to spare your own nerves.
Thank you & ad break
Now that I’ve explained our tandem partnership, it’s no surprise that when people ask us, “Job sharing — is it half the work and twice the fun?” we always answer “Yes.” Kristin, Tini, and I would like to thank everyone who has made this work model possible: our employer, managers, team, families, and the Daimler daycare center “sternchen” (Little Star). We’d be happy to see job sharing becoming more popular and eventually as normal as carsharing and couch surfing.
That’s why we would like to put in a good word for job sharing as often as possible. In addition to Angela Lechner, a good in-house contact point for this work model at Daimler is the job sharing community on the intranet, which has 600 registered members. There are also external platforms such as Tandemploy, which are smoothing the path to tandem partnerships — and thus to “half the work and twice the fun.” This path is worthwhile.