Being able to trust your job share partner is something they both emphasise. “I had to feel that when I went off on a Wednesday that I could hand over to Judith, not worry, go home think about the kids, or in later life my mum or other interests,” says Pigott. She adds, “whatever Judith does I’m happy to live with and even if I’m not 100 percent happy, I’m happy enough.”
Along with that, Killick says that unpicking what the other person has done should be avoided at all costs. “Don’t go back on anything, always move forward.”
Getting a job share up and running requires time and resources. “Lots of preparation is needed because the biggest thing you’re likely to encounter is that other people can’t imagine how it’s going to work,” says Killick.
“People find it very hard to envisage, so do a lot of preparatory work about how you are going to share it so you can answer those questions.”
Though job sharing is still massively under-utilised, there is an overwhelming appetite for work schedules outside of the traditional model. Consultancy research suggests that while 87% percent of people in the UK would prefer to work flexibly, the availability of flexible jobs is still hugely lacking at only 11%. Nearly half of these jobs are part-time. Men also want to work flexibly, but they may benefit from it less than women, who face the obvious discrimination of having the greater share of caring responsibilities.
According to Maggy Pigott, who trained middle managers to help them get over hostility to the idea, “unless you’ve seen a job share work, you can think of all the reasons it wouldn’t work… once you see it in action and see that it actually can work seamlessly then that fear of the unknown goes.”
One such example was how the pair approached applying for a promotion to a senior civil servant position. “We were the first people to do it,” says Killick, “and I remember receiving a phone call from our HR department saying, ‘How do you think we should interview you?’”
Not having experience in doing it herself, Killick made up her response on the spot. She suggested that HR interview herself and Pigott individually to see if they were up to the job, but also see them together to assess their chemistry. And that became the model for job sharing interviews.
But with HR having to, in this case, do three job interviews for the same candidate(s), is it more hassle than it’s worth?
As Pigott and Killick found, the benefits to a company and to employees can be great. “We know now that job shares are more productive,” Killick says, with research showing that senior-level job shares can increase productivity by up to 30%.
“I don’t think we were doing twice as much work but I certainly think our jobs expanded as we did them because there were two minds on it. You get two heads for the price of one.”
Pigott says that after they started job sharing, people started to accept it as normal. And that normalisation is key to its success.
“Ideally you’d have some dedicated resource in HR who would be looking out for people who want to job share and encourage them to meet and see if you could make it work,” Killick suggests. Job adverts mentioning roles’ suitability for job sharing would also help push past the default assumption of one employee for one job.
Killick and Pigott are retired now, having both received special honours from the Queen of England in the form of a CBE. And if you’re still sceptical about whether two heads really are better than one at work, the women were replaced by two full timers when they left.
Pigott is hugely grateful to have had a fulfilling career which wouldn’t have been possible if she hadn’t job shared.
“With part-time work the opportunities for promotion are less. With job shares you can have those mainstream, high-profile jobs and that was a great privilege,” she says.