Share Your Job, Save Your Sanity

You can't totally unplug unless someone's got your back. And if you never totally unplug, you're flirting with burnout.

There are many excellent reasons why people share jobs.

As Amy Gallo reports for HBR.org, the reason might be to take care of a dependent, work a side job, or advance your education.

But perhaps more urgently, job sharing can actually ensure that you get some planned time off. As Sleeping with Your Smartphone author Leslie Perlow told us, consultants at the ever-booked Boston Consulting Group were able to get a night off every week when they started to share their jobs with their colleagues at about an 80% on, 20% off rate.

Just as working parents need to have a bench of caretakers ready in case the kids need to get picked up at school while they're away, the responsible careerist will have a colleague who can plug into the workload so that you may unplug.

So how do we learn to share well with others?

Choose wisely.

As in any case when the word partner is involved, you have to choose wisely: It should be someone you can communicate, collaborate, and disagree with. You don't want your clone, Gallo reasons; rather, you want your complement—if you would rather work in a cave, find a partner comfortable in the commons.

Make the proper divisions.

"There are a number of ways to slice any given job," Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law, tells Gallo. "It’s important to conceptualize all different parts and divide them up in the most effective way."

The right move, then, is to map out the responsibilities, which can come in two main models. Gallo explains:

"Some people split the work by each taking responsibility for certain tasks. This is called the "islands model" or a "job split." Others share the same workload and simply divide up the days (usually with a bit of overlap). This is called the "twins model" and is often the simpler of the two.

Which model to use depends on the job to be done, Gallo writes.

Overcommunicate.

"Think ‘mind meld,' " Williams says. Face-to-face is best; more mediated communication is useful, but this misses the richness of the experience.

Get your boss's support.

If you're going to share the job, you need to get buy-in from the other people involved—especially your boss. Part of that process is battling the bias against job-sharing that might exist in your office.

Perlow, who did the research with the Boston Consulting Group, said that the job-sharing solution arose from an initial discussion about feeling like no one could ever completely unplug. So part of the solution then is tuning down the always-on culture.

Hat tip: HBR.org

[Image: Flickr user John Loo]

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