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A new option for work/life balance

After Lathonia Oates gave birth to her daughter, she wanted to spend more time at home and less at work. While Oates enjoyed her demanding job as a Texas-based medical recruiter, she approached her employer about splitting her job responsibilities with another employee in order to create a better balance between her career and family. Now, one year later, Oates is spending more time at home and has successfully implemented a job-sharing arrangement at work.

Pat Katepoo, founder of WorkOptions.com, an online resource that helps professionals arrange flexible work schedules, says that although the arrangements vary, the outcome is the same: Job sharing provides the flexibility to enjoy life.

Job sharing allows two employees to share the duties and salary of one full-time job during alternate days or hours. Job sharing arrangements vary by company and job partners. Some arrangements allow for each job partner to work a total of two and a half days per week, while others schedule one partner for mornings and the other for afternoons.

According to the 2005 Emerging Workforce Study by the staffing and recruitment company Spherion, 86% of 3,278 employees cited work-life balance as a top career priority, even more than promotions and raises. Because of this trend, workers are asking their employers if they can share their responsibilities.

However, flexible workplace consultant Shari Rosen Ascher says, “Personal priority should never be the sole reason for asking an employer to job share.” Ascher, a former job-sharing employee and author of Share the Goals (www.sharegoals.com) advises prospective job sharers to “think like your boss and offer job sharing as a business solution.”

She suggests approaching the job sharing discussion from the employer benefit perspective, which would include: quality recruitment, more coverage of a single job, twice the knowledge and expertise, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and greater employee satisfaction and retention.

Katepoo adds that like anything else, there are pros and cons to job sharing and it is not possible to share every job. She says potential disadvantages to job sharing can include reduced salary and benefits, diminished career advancement, fewer training opportunities, and increased time and effort communicating with your job partner, supervisor, and co-workers.

Katepoo suggests employees consider the following questions before requesting to job share:

Can you afford to job share? Consider the financial implications of reducing your salary. Find out from human resources how your benefits (health, dental, retirement, etc.) will be impacted.

Will job sharing enable you to meet your career goals? Determine how job sharing may impact your career mobility. Ask human resources how they think the succession plan for this position may change if the job is shared.

Does your job lend itself to job sharing? Decide if your current duties can be realistically divided.

Jobs best suited for job sharing are those in which the work is already being meticulously documented so that it is relatively easy for one job sharer to pick up where the other left off. According to experts, positions as a customer service agent, help desk professional, nurse, pharmacist, or payroll clerk work

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