Juggle work and motherhood without going ‘part-time’ by job sharing

Job sharing is a good way of maintaining a high-flying career after you have children, says Sara All

Job sharing is a good way of maintaining a high-flying career after you have children, says Sara Allen. Picture: PA - Credit: PA WIRE

Many women find the compromise of juggling work and motherhood means downgrading to a part-time role.

But one East Finchley mother and career woman is championing job sharing as a better way to cut your hours while maintaining a fulfilling professional life.

Sara Allen left her senior civil service role last year to start an HR and recruitment business enabling job-sharing in blue chip companies.

“Every conversation at the school gate or playdates revolves around the issue of juggling work and family,” says the former Channing pupil.

“At the point I left I was doing high pressure projects at the Department of Health compressing five days into four - if No 10 wanted something it had to be there. It wasn’t uncommon for people to be in at 2am but I found on my Fridays off I was too tired to parent. I just put CBeebies on and flopped exhausted on the sofa.”

Allen passionately believes that mothers make great employees.

“I would employ a mother every time. They never mess around on Facebook. They would be in at 9 out at 5 with 8 brilliantly organised hours in between.”

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But she was intrigued by the statistic that 37 percent of professional women drop out of their careers at some point and 20 percent “downgrade to a less challenging role so they can go part time and spend more time with their children”.

Because childcare costs remain the same, it means a greater proportion of their salary is eaten up – all while their career is at best stalled at worst going backwards.

Allen points out: “If a job can be done part time then it’s probably not the best paid. If you want to do a senior job part time you have to job share. There are a whole series of big challenging jobs where someone needs to be there five or six days a week. That’s where the progression problem happens; even if you are brilliant if you are not there five days a week you get overlooked, but job sharers can be promoted as a pair - it allows you to continue on an ambitious career track”

Targeting FTSE 100 and 250 companies - banks, retailers management consultants - who can pay for her services, she is building a bank of interested job sharers and an algorithm to match them, creating pairs by industry, location and salary.

“We challenge employers to place job share pairs and offer an extensive support package. We do a much deeper dive into their skills and views as fine tuned as who is taking annual leave, how to run your inbox and how performance is managed. We match similar approaches to things like risk. We can give them access to a pool of talent and connect challenging jobs with brilliant people who want to work reduced hours.”

Allen says the response so far has been positive.

“Everyone we have spoken to sees it as a way to keep their talented staff. We are focusing on mothers but it is also attractive to employees nearing retirement who have a lot of knowledge they can pass on to younger workers, or millennials who might not want to work full time. I doubt anyone’s talking to us because they have a mission-led belief in a diverse workforce it’s because it makes good sense for their bottom line.”

Another benefit of job-sharing is employers get two sets of skills for the price of one. “They learn from each other and solve problems between themselves.”

Job-sharing, says Allen is about investing in the relationship between the pair “and supporting them to make sure it moves in a high performing direction”.

“It’s a way of genuinely having it all. It feels like a no brainer that integrates how we want to work and live our lives. No-one aspires to spend their life in a corporate box in the city. Work is changing and we need to come up with flexible, smart solutions.”