A Jobshare in action
Joanne Fox-Evans and Hannah Bonnell tell us about how they have successfully job shared a senior position at Bioscientifica for almost six years. Theirs is an example of how, when carefully planned and managed, this type of job share can be hugely beneficial to both the organisation and the individuals themselves.
Please tell us about the role that you job share.
JFE – we share the role as Head of Association Management at Bioscientifica, who provides publishing, events and association management services to the biomedical community.
HB - We also provide a service to one of our client societies, the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology (ESPE) as their Senior Operating Officer, working with their governing body to deliver senior-level strategic support.
When did your job share start?
JFE- the job share started in January 2014, when I returned from maternity leave. Prior to my maternity leave I carried out the role full time and while I was away Hannah covered my maternity leave, also full time.
How does it work?
JFE - I work Monday – Wednesday, Hannah works Wednesday – Friday, so we overlap on a Wednesday, providing an opportunity to catch up and discuss anything that benefits from both our brains. So we cover the role for six days in total each week. We also have meetings on Wednesdays that are beneficial for us both to attend.
HB - We are lucky to work for an organisation that is willing to support the flexibility to work in this way, although we firmly believe the advantages it brings fully justifies the additional overhead.
How did it come about?
JFE - I was returning from maternity leave and wanted to work part time, and Hannah also had a young child and I knew from conversations that she would like to work part time as well, not least because of the size of the job.
HB - We also both enjoy the two elements of the role – heading up the department and the client side.
How do you balance the needs of the organisation and the various aspects of the role? Do you split the responsibilities or share them?
JFE -We absolutely share the responsibilities and are of the opinion that it’s our job to ensure that if someone has a conversation with one of us, they don’t need to have the same conversation with the other. It’s up to each of us to update the other.
We do, of course, have naturally different strengths and so there are certain projects where one or the other of us will take the lead.
HB - We are both committed to ensuring that we talk to each other outside of our normal working hours to make sure that the communication sits with us. On occasion if we have bigger things to discuss we will also go out for dinner to give them proper thought and time.
We line manage four individuals directly and we split time with each of them between us, but also ensure that each of them has time with us both together.
What do you see as the main benefits of sharing your job?
JFE – these are twofold, as there are benefits to Bioscientifica as well as for ourselves. Two brains are definitely better than one and we are able to bring different strengths to the role that you wouldn’t find in one individual.
HB - Additionally if we need to bounce ideas around we can do it with each other rather than pull in others as a sounding board. Bio also benefits from having two highly engaged individuals doing one job. It’s proven that part-time hours mean more engagement and I certainly find my productivity is much higher on a 3-day week as opposed to a 5-day week.
JFE - When we look at the personal benefits we always know that the other is there on our non-working days carrying on with the job, and so we can focus on our home lives rather than constantly dipping in and out of work as you might with a part-time job.
HB - It makes me a better mum!
JFE - We always have each other’s back, can lift the other when necessary and support each other at work if the other is going through a tricky/busy time at home (this is also a benefit to the organisation!).
We always have someone who understands the job just as much as you do. I also think she knows me better than anyone else does!
HB - I think we’ve taught each other skills that I wouldn’t have learnt had I been doing the job on my own.
Are there any challenges?
JFE - Getting colleagues to differentiate between conversations that need both of us and those that can be had with either one of us. As a result we can be in back-to-back meetings on Wednesdays and then have little time to discuss the meaty things.
HB - When one or the other is on holiday, there can be a tendency from our side to cover the other’s working days for urgent things, whereas we should be more firm and ensure people realise that the other person is on holiday. This can result in an expectation both internally, and externally, that we’re there 5 days a week whatever. It actually works better when we’re both on holiday at the same time.
Is there anything you would change about the way the job share works?
JFE - Nothing that I haven’t covered above.
Any tips for people considering a job share in a senior role?
JFE - The right partner is key, you can’t just job share with anyone. The relationship needs to be equal. You need to be able to trust the other to make decisions on your non-working days that you understand, even if you might not have always made exactly the same decision yourself. One of the reasons ours works well is that we each did the job on our own before we did it together, which makes it an equal relationship.
HB - I think the key thing is trust – I wholeheartedly trust Jo’s judgement and she by her own admission likes to be in control, so she must trust me quite a lot!!
Play to your individual strengths – I think it’s really important that you don’t become a clone of one-another, we are both independent in our thought processes and sometimes have to argue between ourselves and fight our corner on something which luckily we are not scared of doing. I think this always results in the best outcome for the business, our team and our clients.
Joanne Fox Evans and Hannah Bonnell, Head of Association Management, Bioscientifica