The Job Share

If I wanted to work bankers’ hours, I would work at a bank. But I’m a journalist. And journalists work until the stories are told – until the papers are published, until the broadcast has aired, and in this day and age we work 24/7 to keep the world up to date.

It’s fulfilling work, but it takes its toll. The subject matter can be painful, the environment is stressful and four nights a week, I eat at my desk. Needless to say, I’d rather be home for dinner… with my husband and 3-year-old daughter… especially on Sundays.

So when my colleague mentioned he needed a change – for his own reasons which also include a young child – we started to talk about a job share. “What’s a job share?” most people ask me. Pretty much how it sounds. You share a job with a co-worker so that each of you works half as much, splitting the duties and responsibilities of one full-time position.

I have never seen a posting for a shared job. At our workplace, the job share is a temporary arrangement initiated by employees, allowing them some flexibility in the short-term. The employer also wins, since the employees are not quitting altogether, just pulling back for a while. The arrangement has to be approved at a few different levels, and that approval can depend on all kinds of corporate and departmental factors.

In our case, my colleague was the one to approach our boss and initiate the process. Luckily the boss is understanding… having worked the same hours while raising his own child, and having experienced the benefits of a job share for his family. When I first returned to work from maternity leave and found myself really missing my daughter in the evenings, he was actually the one who mentioned the job share as an option for better work-life balance.

Lucky too, that the job is conducive to sharing, as the work itself is done by the end of each day. Because the newscast is a daily finished product, the next day is a fresh start meaning no need for a handover. Of course, there are disadvantages too. Working only twenty hours a week, I can’t help but feel a bit out of the loop. I’m missing a lot of the important discussions and silly jokes that build a stronger team dynamic.

And then there’s the biggest downer – the obvious one – less money! No matter how good a planner or saver you are, the truth is it hurts to suddenly have your paycheque chopped in half. So even if the arrangement was available long-term, I couldn’t sustain it financially.

I’m three months into the job share now. I’ve already dipped into my savings to pay for some surprise expenses. And I haven’t accomplished even half the personal goals I set out for myself. But I did spend this entire day laughing and fighting with my daughter – out at the bookstore and at home drinking hot chocolate in giant mugs. So even though my career is sort of on hold and my wallet isn’t too impressed… my heart couldn’t be happier.

Kulvinder Singh 
Journalist, Mother