Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed a surge in the number of people searching for jobs that include remote work flexibility. So, it’s no wonder more companies are embracing this change to attract and retain the best people.
While job-sharing isn’t ‘new’, it’s rising in popularity as a modern, flexible approach to work, enabling two employees to split a full-time job, by each working part-time hours.
It’s a clear win-win for employees and employers, facilitating better work-life balance, productivity, and job satisfaction. But it’s also enabling organizations to cultivate a diverse workforce by tapping into broader talent markets – working parents, for example, who want to better balance their responsibilities between work and home.
We spoke with Jessica White and Andrea West, Category Managers, Cleaning at Woolworths – to get their insights on how they’ve made their job-sharing arrangement successful.
On first meeting the pair, their similarities are quite striking.
Jessica is English and has lived in Australia for eleven years: “I’m a married mother of a four- and seven-year-old. I love going to the beach, gardening, and spending time with my family. Since my family are still in the UK, I’ve formed a close friendship group; we enjoy going on bike rides, camping, and enjoying a glass or two of wine.”
Andrea is Irish, and similarly made the permanent move to Australia around the same time.
“We both live on the Northern Beaches in Sydney and share a similar work history, but I have three children.”
On their decade long career relationship Jessica says: “It’s been an extraordinarily successful, long-time working relationship. We both joined Big W full-time, as category managers, and worked in the same team before going on parental leave – only three months apart!”
How did their job-sharing arrangement start, and how does it work?
They first began job-sharing at Metcash. After establishing a track record of success, they decided to accept a new opportunity together at Woolworths, as part of a package deal.
But, for them to continue achieving the same levels of success in a brand-new company, this move depended on a few key conditions.
First, they needed to gain support from Woolworth’s Commercial Director and Merchandise Manager.
“They were both so open-minded and passionate about flexible work,” said Jessica. “They understood how, ultimately, job-sharing enables us to do what we love at work, while also raising a young family. That’s what makes it such a successful partnership; we’ve both been enabled to grow as mothers and category managers, through collaboration and shared learning.”
Establishing consistency and a job-sharing framework also made a positive difference.
Jessica works Monday to Wednesday, while Andrea works Wednesday to Friday.
By having set days and a joint day in the middle of week, they’re able to clarify tasks, avoid duplicating work, as well as identify key performance indicators for the business, suppliers, team, and each other.
What would life look like if they didn’t have job-sharing flexibility?
As Jessica explains, after extensive experience with job-sharing and being able to demonstrate its success, it’s not something she can imagine living without.
It just goes to show that organizations that prioritize flexibility for its team members can gain a competitive advantage by engaging broader talent markets.
“At the end of the day, we love having job-sharing flexibility with Woolworths, being part of a supportive team, and developing our careers with such a great retailer.”
What challenges have they had to overcome along the way?
Jessica’s and Andrea’s experiences with job-sharing have been, by and large, very positive. Like any role, they’ve had to adapt to changing circumstances. But these have been easy to overcome.
For example, when Andrea left on parental leave, Jessica picked up her responsibilities by covering the category full-time for a few months.
“Another colleague of mine, Nicole, returned to work after parental leave,” said Jessica. “She was able to join me through job-sharing in the category, Mondays to Wednesdays. It’s been great introducing her to a job-sharing role and showing her ways of working.
“It’s also been wonderful working with someone new and making it an equally successful experience. It goes to show that job-sharing arrangements in the commercial space work, provided there’s a clear structure in place.”
What other flexibility, benefits, or initiatives have made a difference?
For Jessica, remote work flexibility has been another game-changer, allowing her to reduce her time commuting, and providing her with the space and quiet time to focus on key projects.
“We can also purchase leave – which was hugely beneficial during times I’ve worked remotely overseas. It enabled me to visit my family in the UK after lockdowns. That meant so much to me.”
Woolworths employees also receive discounts through the Plus Club.
“We receive generous discounts at Woolworths-owned restaurants and pubs – which enables us to take our families out for dinner and enjoy some time away from cooking.”
She also loves being able to have a positive impact in her role. For example, one of her most memorable achievements was launching a new offer for suppliers, based on a customer-led innovation.
What’s on the horizon?
Another aspect of job-sharing that Jessica and Andrea enjoy is that their roles aren’t set in stone. There’s flexibility, and plenty of opportunities to explore different areas in the business.
“I’m about to start a parental-leave cover in Haircare, full-time, to experience a new category in a wider team,” said Jessica. “I’m excited to continue building my career at Woolworths, taking on new projects and categories.”
Overall, the company’s open-mindedness and support for alternative ways of working in a commercial setting have made all the difference.
“Andrea and I have made job-sharing successful by establishing a clear structure and principles. Like any role, support from senior leaders and our other team members has been invaluable. Our suppliers have also been open-minded, and easily understand who to speak to and how it works. This enables us to deliver great results across the six cleaning categories we manage.”
If their success is anything to go by, then the results are clear. Job-sharing isn’t just a trend; it can be a game-changer for organizations and individuals alike.