In fact, some people perceive any flexible arrangement as a sign that you aren’t committed

Battle the bias Bailyn says that one of the biggest barriers to making these situations successful is the attitude of others. Williams has observed this stigma in her research at the Center for WorkLife Law. “In most organizations this is seen as an ‘odd duck’ arrangement,” she says. The best way to challenge this bias is to excel at the work. “Make it very clear that you’re meeting the norms the organization has for people who are dedicated to the job,” says Williams.

Give it time Once you’ve settled on an arrangement that you, your partner, and your boss think will work, try it out. Set a pilot period and experiment with how you split the work and communicate. Then tweak as necessary. “It’s good to give the process a bit of time to work out the kinks and get people used to it. After some experience, most people react positively,” says Bailyn. No matter how long you’ve been sharing a job, it’s a good idea to continually reassess and make adjustments based on what’s working for each of you, your boss, and the organization.

But she was a new mother, and only wanted to work 50% time

  • When selecting a partner, choose someone you can easily communicate, collaborate, and disagree with
  • Ask your boss for feedback regularly – be vigilant about communicating with her about the arrangement
  • Make sure it’s a seamless experience for your co-workers and anyone outside your organization

But she was a new mother, and only wanted to work 50% time

  • Leave anything unspoken – talk to your partner regularly
  • Assume everyone will be fine with the arrangement – combat bias by excelling at your shared work
  • Set the details in stone – it’s better to experiment and make adjustments as necessary

Case study #1: Experiment with the arrangement to find what works Gretchen Anderson had been working as a consultant to the Katzenbach Center at Strategy& for a few months when the opportunity to take on the role of center director came up. Gretchen knew one of the center’s leaders, Jon Katzenbach – she’d worked at a firm he’d previously founded- and was excited about the opportunity to work with him again. Fortunately, another consultant who had been with the firm for almost eight years, Carolin Oelschlegel, was also interested in the position. She was based in London and had recently started working 80% time for lifestyle reasons – “there are so many things I wanted to do outside of work and I wanted the time to do them,” she says.

Gretchen and Carolin spoke once by phone and each had a strong sense that they would work well with the other so agreed to put their collective hat in the ring (each dedicating 50% to the role). Such job-share arrangements are not menchats common at Strategy&, but the leaders at the Katzenbach Center were eager to make it happen.

Initially, they thought they could split the work by region: Gretchen could cover North America and Carolin would take Europe. But they soon realized that this division felt artificial and ineffective. Next, they tried working on the same projects, passing them back and forth, but that didn’t feel efficient either. Eventually, they decided to carve out two buckets of work: immediate requests from client teams, which required a response within 24-48 hours, and longer term projects.

Immediate requests are now resolved by whoever is available and online at the time. For the longer-term projects, they collectively designate a lead who can bounce the work back to her partner as necessary, relying on the other’s feedback and re-allocating when demands shift or projects end. They manage this hybrid between the “twins” and “islands” model by staying in constant contact: “We’re in touch by email every day, even on Gretchen’s off days and we always know where the other is,” says Carolin.

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