When she married a widower six years ago, Janna became an instant mother to his two children. Since then, she and her husband had a son.
During those six years, Janna, 34, kept working full-time as a senior sales executive in the diagnostics division of a huge pharmaceutical company.
“I literally did not stop from 5AM to 11PM. Not one time. It was a fast life. I couldn’t keep track of sports practices and appointments. I would come home at the end of the work day tired and cranky, having ‘left it all on the table’ at work.”
Janna was ready to quit her job. When she confided in a trusted colleague about her plans, she was encouraged to propose a job sharing arrangement instead. But Janna was unsure. “No one in our organization was doing job sharing, so I didn’t see it as an option. My friend told me, ‘You would be crazy not to give it a try.’ I had to break new ground [in proposing it].”
At the time of our interview, Janna was into her fourth month of job sharing. What’s the difference?
“I finally feel a balance that was lacking in my life. I don’t let anything slip through the cracks; I don’t forget about [sports] practice or a dental appointment that costs me $75 to miss. I can attend all of the special events in my kids’ lives. And now I’m picking up the kids’ car pool twice a week. It’s so fun because you get to know them more. I’m a lot more tuned in to their lives.”
More Interview Highlights with Janna About Her Successful Job Sharing Arrangement
Pat: What is your work schedule now?
Janna: My job partner and I each work ½ days on Monday. Then I work Wednesdays and Thursdays and she works Tuesdays and Fridays.
Pat: How well are you able to keep to the 2.5 days-a-week schedule without going over?
Janna: It’s a challenge because of the nature of our business. For example, we both recently attended a week-long mandatory national sales meeting in another city. But my manager is supportive about making up lost “off” hours at other times.
Pat: What insights did you gain from the process of negotiating job sharing?
I had to be persistent. This would not happen on its own. [But] I’ve worked hard and have a good track record. I reminded my employer of my history of success. This is a technical position; they know it takes two years of training before somebody new can move any mountains [in sales]. So I was in a pretty good spot to ask for it.
Pat: Most of my flexible work proposal customers get relatively swift approval of their proposed work arrangement. Your situation was different; introducing something new in a mammoth corporation can take a long while. How did that play out for you?
Janna: I was discouraged because it took months for my proposal to go through the chain of command. I thought, ‘This is time that I’m losing [with my kids].’ The biggest hurdle was having a very busy VP of Sales get it off his desk [to the next step]. My manager and regional sales manager were supportive but had to choose their timing well when bringing it up with their boss.
Pat: Now that your job sharing arrangement is in full swing, is your manager still supportive?
Janna: Yes. My boss sees it as a win because now he has two sets of eyes looking over a large sales territory. Another win was when I had shoulder surgery and was out for four weeks yet there was some coverage. He didn’t have to cover it.
Pat: How were employee benefits handled?
Janna: We both get full health benefits, and the 401K remains. And you know, with two people, there are two company cars, two phone bills, two airplane tickets to sales meetings, so [my employer] is really backing the arrangement.
Pat: What about your customers? How did they receive your new job sharing arrangement?
Janna: Their faces light up when I introduce my job partner. We tell them we have six children between us. They are thrilled that [my employer] would do something like that to keep a valued employee. Several have told me that they wish they had had those options when their family was young. So overall all, the response has been, “Wow, what a great thing you’re doing for your employees.”
Pat: Cutting your hours meant cutting your income. How did you and your husband approach the decision to switch to shorter hours?
Janna: We sat down with pencil and paper to figure out how we could do this. What does this mean [for our lifestyle]? Financially, it’s manageable, plus were able to cut out child care expenses on Tuesdays and Fridays. My husband would have supported me in any decision, but he’s really happy for me.
Pat: What has surprised you about the job sharing arrangement?
Janna: I’ve gained a new best friend! My job partner and I are like long-lost friends. I enjoy her thoroughly. In that way, it’s blown my expectations.
Pat: Anything else you’d like to add?
Janna: My bosses knew this arrangement was important to me, but I wanted them to know it was important to my kids, too. So I had each of my kids write a note to my manager and regional sales manager. Their thoughts about having mommy around more really “brought it home” to my managers.
Takeaway Tips for My Readers
- Expand your thinking beyond black and white choices, e.g., work traditional full-time or quit. There are many work options to match your specific needs.
- Just because there’s no employer flexible work policy doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Asking works. Be thoroughly prepared. Janna used the Job Sharing Proposal Package.
- Many professional jobs have such demanding responsibilities that a reduced workweek alone is not practical. In contrast, job sharing, where the job position remains full-time, is a way for your career to stay on track while you work part-time hours.
- Are you underestimating the value you bring to your employer? Assess your contributions. You probably have more negotiating leverage than you acknowledge.