The University Record, April 30, 1996

Job sharing works for two counselors at CEW

Doreen Murasky (left) and Lisa Tulin-Silver told participants at a workshop last week how to sell job-sharing to employers. The alternative to 40-hour weeks can actually save employers money, they note.

Photo by Bob Kalmbach

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

When Doreen Murasky and Lisa Tulin-Silver saw the job posting for a senior counselor at the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), they realized that this was the opportunity they had both been waiting for. The two women did not compete for the job, however. Instead, they put together a formal proposal to share the job with each other. The job as posted was for an 80-percent position, but neither woman wanted to work four full days a week. Two days would be perfect, allowing them to keep up private counseling practices, devote time to their families and even carve out a few hours a week for their own personal needs.

It didn't take long for them to convince the Center's administrators that two heads were better than one. They have been job-sharing since September, and the arrangement is working fine. "There's an increasing interest here at the University in flexible work arrangements," says Sue Kaufmann, CEW's associate director, "and job-sharing is part of that movement."

Pointing out the advantages of job-sharing to employers is crucial, Tulin-Silver and Murasky emphasized at the April 25 brown-bag presentation. Employers not only get twice the job experience and skills, they also are able to schedule coverage during extended work hours, to achieve continuity if one job-share employee is absent, and to retain valuable employees whose family obligations or other considerations make it impossible for them to work full-time.

What interests employers most may be the bottom line. Tulin-Silver presented several case analyses showing that, depending on the situation, an employer's direct and indirect costs associated with job-sharing range from slightly more to substantially less. "We think we are a bargain," she added.

If two current employees share a $30,000-a-year position, each cutting back to 50 percent time, employers will pay only $160.97 more---the amount of additional unemployment insurance. In the case of a senior employee earning $30,000 who phases into retirement by cutting back to half-time and shares the job with a junior employee who makes $10,500 rather than $15,000, the employer actually saves $5,320.40.

"If you pair an experienced employee with an inexperienced one," said Tulin-Silver, "you get two employees for less than the price of one."

"A detailed cost analysis of a job-share between a senior employee and a new hire lights up the eyes of managers," added Murasky.

Tulin-Silver and Murasky also described the disadvantages of job-sharing from the employer's perspective. Employers may incur one-time administrative overhead and training costs if at least one of the job-sharers is a new hire. They may incur the expense of providing extra office space and equipment for two people if the job-sharers will be working some overlapping hours. But in most cases, the presenters emphasized, the advantages of job-sharing outweigh the drawbacks, for employers as well as employees.

One of the women attending the presentation, the mother of an infant, noted that she was the only woman with a child in her department. Working full-time, even in a field she loved, while caring for her first child was proving to be more difficult than she anticipated. She wasn't ready yet to broach the subject with her supervisors, but Tulin-Silver and Murasky said they would welcome her call when she wanted more information.

Another attendee, a U-M manager who was pregnant with her first child, hoped job-sharing would offer a creative solution to what she could already see would be an exhausting juggling act. "If you have ambition and energy, can you still get ahead by working only 20 to 30 hours a week?" she asked. Tulin-Silver and Murasky both assured her it should indeed be possible as job-sharing and other flexible work arrangements become more common at the University.