Job sharing is quite different to two people working in the same office on a part time basis, Jana Tepe of Tandemploy, a company that connects employers with employees seeking to job share, tells The Local.
“Job sharing is when two people work very closely as a team. It works on the motto that two heads are better than one. It is more efficient and it is more flexible,” says Tepe, who founded Tandemploy in 2013.
The idea is that instead of two part-time people working around each other, two people apply for a job together and cover the work as a team. Sometimes this means working separate hours, sometimes it means working together.
“Because you have two personalities covering the same position, it is much easier to cover core skills. One person can be creative while the other is analytical,” says Tepe.
At the same time, naturally, the working hours of each employee separately are significantly reduced. While this is an obvious attraction for women, who are still more likely to balance their work with raising children, Tepe says that there are other people for whom it is of interest too.
“About 30 percent of the people who come to us are men. While one main reason that people want to do job sharing is because of families, another is that they want time for other projects, something that is especially prevalent in the IT sector,” explains Tepe.
She acknowledges that it is not right for everyone but explains that there could be circumstances which affect anyone which make it a more attractive option.
“Even if you love your job, there could be a situation where for health reasons you can no longer work full-time,” she points out.
The there are those who are older and are seeking to slowly transition from work into retirement, or who unexpectedly have to care for family members.
Another key area in which job sharing can work is by pairing up a foreign worker with a native one.
“If the international employee doesn't yet speak such good German, working with a German can be very useful to them as it helps them better integrate,” Tepe argues. “At the same time the German benefits by getting to learn from a different culture."
She believes that this could even work for international workers coming to Germany who haven't yet acquired the necessary language skills to work independently.
Finding your other half
Job sharing emerged in the 1980s as the first wave of women who had benefited from equal education to their male peers started having to make decisions on raising a family.
Employers reluctant to lose some of their most talented employees sought to find compromises. Job sharing was seen as attractive because it pooled two skill sets.
Over the last 15 years, as ever more women have achieved the same qualifications as men, the demand for job sharing has risen.
Tandemploy is often approached by employers seeking to pair someone up with an employee they already have who needs to cut down their hours.
Tepe says that the main difficulty is for people to find a partner who compliments their skills. And that's where her company comes in – by providing a platform through which job seekers can be connected to one another and employers can be connected to the appropriate applicants.
Germany slow on the uptake
Although German companies tend to be European leaders when it comes to offering flexible working hours to employees, it still lags considerably behind other countries when it comes to job sharing.
A report by consulting firm Robert Half published in December 2014 showed that 70 percent of German companies offer flexible working hours, well above the European average, a trend that was repeated for a variety of options for parents, such as home office and paternal leave.
But German companies still seem much less convinced of the benefits than their European competitors, with only 15 percent of companies offering it as an option
While this is considerably more than in 2003, when nine percent of companies provided it, it is well below European competitors. Britain leads the way with 48 percent of companies offering job sharing, with the European average currently standing at 25 percent.
Companies that don't offer job sharing mostly commonly cited 'inefficiency in view of our our business demands' as their reason for not doing so, while also mentioning concerns about the negative effect it could have on team work.
Costs for companies will on the face of it also increase, as they will be required to pay social contributions for two employees.
But for Tepe these fears are ungrounded.
“While it is true that companies will have to pay a bit more in social contributions, they will save more in the long-term through the efficiency which job sharing offers. Especially when one employee takes a holiday the other can step in to make the transition seamless,” she argues.
For Tepe the success of job sharing is proved by the rate at which employers take up the pairs which apply through her company.
71 percent of people applying for job shares through them are offered a position, she says.