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Job sharing: managers get two for price of one.

After my first child was born, I had no interest in leaving the job that I love in EB's trade policy shop. I discussed options with my supportive office director and deputy, and job sharing stood out as an attractive arrangement for me and my office.

Others in the Department may find the practice useful as well, though many are unaware of its existence. At present only 12 job sharing arrangements exist, involving 24 employees.

Job sharing is a form of part-time employment in which one position is filled by two part-time employees.

Michael Karlsberg, the management analyst responsible for job sharing in the Bureau of Human Resource's Work-Life Division (WLD), says the practice is less common than alternative work schedules and teleworking. This may be because job sharing changes how much work an employee is responsible for completing. In job sharing, said Karlsberg, two people share the work of one full-time equivalent (FTE) slot and one FTE salary. Job sharers, thus, often can continue working among their colleagues in their areas of expertise.

Job sharing can benefit an office, since each partner brings different experiences, knowledge and ideas to his or her work. Rachel Waldstein and Jehan Jones-Radgowski, successful job share partners in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said their individual strengths combine to bring to the job a richer perspective on issues, due in part to the extra viewpoint. Memos drafted by one partner are edited and reviewed by the other, presentations are considered and prepared by two experts, and analyses and strategies fuse two distinct perspectives.

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Two other sharers, Michelle Neyland and Joelle Retener, in the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, provide each other with feedback on ways they might manage challenges. For instance, they may confer on the best way to respond to a request, which adds value to the answer given.

Partners are inextricably linked to each other's schedules, which can challenge the duo, but benefit the office with greater continuity and less absenteeism. For example, if an employee is sick or on long-term leave, the partner would cover by being at work part of each week. When Neyland was on maternity leave, for instance, Retener began her job share, working half of each week to keep their projects moving. Partners may also rearrange their usual schedule to cover for each other or take turns working a full week and taking a week of leave.

Job share partners say they try to not let each other down, and this pressure spurs effectiveness. Neyland said she was motivated to work harder in order to leave projects in good shape for Retener, who would pick up the work during her days in office. Janine Garcia, who shares a job in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research with longtime colleague Jessica Gilbertsen, also spoke of wanting to work efficiently to avoid leaving extra work for Gilbertsen. Garcia said that she and Gilbertsen always seek to make the most of the limited time each spends in the office. Their efficacy has borne fruit: Garcia and Gilbertsen published a body of finished intelligence products in 2015 that were well-received by a wide range of policymakers across the interagency.

Despite the arguments in favor of job sharing, many who seek it face an uphill battle, often with their managers and their front offices. Waldstein and Jones-Radgowski found that their front office worried over how they would communicate with each other to ensure deadlines were not missed and tasks not dropped. Ultimately, the duo drafted and received formal approval of a communications strategy that outlined how the pair would share notes and hold a hand-off phone call.

Often the prospective sharers can't win approval from their office leadership. One Foreign Service officer seeking a job share while bidding on a Washington assignment found office directors wary, and one worried whether tasks would fall through the cracks. Office directors often fear logistical problems, and weigh concerns over schedules, responsibilities and availability more heavily than they would for a full-time officer, said this FSO.

In my case, my office's deputy director, Carol Henninger, was worried that a job share would require a tremendous amount of extra work from her and was uncertain of how the arrangement would be structured. She wanted me to find a partner that suited our office, and a game plan that guaranteed effective work, but she remained open-minded and supportive. Henninger said she wanted to keep me as an employee and recognized the opportunity that would come from having two effective employees. Our office's heavy travel schedule, for instance, benefited from having an extra person to cover trade negotiations.

Even after gaining buy-in, other hurdles may loom. Garcia said job sharers need to be self-starters and will likely need to shepherd each step of the process themselves. When Neyland was awaiting the approval of her job share, she checked in frequently with the people in her bureau that needed to take action, once carrying a piece of paper from one person's desk to another's.

Creating a job share is not especially difficult or troublesome. The aspiring job sharer drafts a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which can contain terms and specifications about the arrangement and must be signed by the job sharers, their office leadership and representatives from the bureau's Executive Office, which provides the details to HR. Notably, job shares can be centrally funded, which helps reduce budget complications. Karlsberg said the only change from a bureau perspective is to the organization code: The total FTE number decreases by one, and the total number of part-time employees increases by two.

Job sharers often have young children or older relatives who require care, but others may have an entrepreneurial goal, a hobby or just want more time for themselves. Kara Cumberland and Jennifer Mitchell, who've shared a position for nearly 10 years in two different bureaus, began by seeking flexibility to care for their then-young children. When Neyland raised the idea with her supervisor, she explained that she was acting in a position a level above her grade, renovating her house and eight months pregnant--she needed balance.

Beyond sheer employee need, there's a benefit for a prospective sharer if he or she has needed expertise. Garcia, for instance, began considering a job share while still pregnant, knowing that she wanted a better work/life balance but still believing her skill set could be of value to her office, even in a part-time capacity. Colleague Gilbertsen, a mother of three, also craved flexibility, and she and Garcia had worked together for nearly a decade, codrafting papers and cobriefing Department principals. While they weren't working on the same portfolio at the time, their managers knew they worked well together--and had experience in the office's issues. Garcia and Gilbertsen had each covered high-profile portfolios and were both INR terrorism analysts. They now share a counternarcotics portfolio but step in on terrorism issues as needed.

When partners agree to share a job's entire portfolio, they must guarantee their office that any task that arises will be completed, regardless of whose turn it is to work. Cumberland and Mitchell said a consistent work product is essential, and they pick up where the other has left off, as seamlessly as possible. Thus, a job share is successful when it is unremarkable to colleagues.

Effective communication is also needed for the sharing of details between partners each week. My sharing partner, Jessica Mazzone, and I are in constant communication, emailing after every interagency phone call, staff meeting and even after our office director pops by to check on progress. We even keep each other updated on promotions, engagements and birthdays, and take turns attending trade negotiations. Our copious notes are essential for us to each brief office staff about the meetings.

Other sharers have other communication tactics:

* Waldstein and Jones-Radgowski have a weekly phone call and use Microsoft OneNote for daily updates;

* Cumberland and Mitchell have an organized shared drive where they can both access and work on documents;

* Neyland and Retener have access to each other's calendars and schedule appointments for each other as workflow dictates; and

* Garcia and Gilbertsen each work a half day on Wednesdays, but overlap for an hour to pass the baton on burning issues.

While WLD doesn't approve job share arrangements--that process begins in an employee's office and ends in employees' front offices--it does seek input from employees, shares best practices and provides guidance to those interested in job sharing. (WLD's job share listserv is on its website and provides prospective sharers the chance to correspond on partnership possibilities.)

Job sharing requires a bit of extra effort by all involved, but the benefits to job sharers, offices and to the work-life culture make it worth the investment.

Rebecca Rose Nolan, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB)
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Author:Nolan, Rebecca Rose
Publication:State Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2016
Words:1479
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