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Alternative Work Strategies: Job Sharing

When Debra Gentile and Kristin Newton embarked on job sharing two years ago, they took on one responsibility neither had expected: Teaching.

Newton and Gentile, both mothers of young kids, are senior quality engineers at Texas Instruments, in Attleboro, MA. They're also pioneers, each working three days a week, with Wednesday an overlap day, in a work environment in which full-time schedules reign.

Although they're thrilled with the arrangement, they've learned that simply announcing that each of them has half of a job share isn't enough.

"The challenge is to educate coworkers that two people are actually one  -- that neither can manage more than a part-time allotment of work," says Newton.

Job sharing has been around since the 1970s, and is more popular than ever today. But the set-up remains unfamiliar to many. That means job-share partners need to help others understand the arrangement. Here's how:

STICK TO THE CLOCK

Fight the temptation to put in as many hours as you did before, says Suzanne Smith, codirector of New Ways to Work, a San Francisco-based organization that supports nontraditional work schedules. "If you can't become accustomed to your routine," she asks, "how will your colleagues?"

LEAVE REGULAR REMINDERS OF YOUR SCHEDULE

When Gentile and Newton first embarked on their job share, co-workers would sometimes come looking for them on their days off. So the two were careful to remind others of their hours. On her days off, for example, Gentile's voice-mail message refers calls to Newton. A big calendar in the office, with days on and days off prominently displayed, can also help.

ATTEND MEETINGS TOGETHER

While developing explicit boundaries is key, stay flexible enough to go to meetings, even on a day off. Your joint presence will allow the staff to see you as an indispensible pair, not just two part-timers.

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