Job-sharing – what works series: Michelle & Cate (Head of Comms)

Michelle Bayley and Cate McLaurin share the busy and demanding role of Head of Comms at Acas. They’ve very generously shared some insights into what works for well-established job share pair operates and what job-sharing has meant for them.

What attracted you to job-sharing?

The ability to manage a really fast paced and interesting job without working full time – and without being part time. (Cate had worked part-time before and knew that often you end up working on your days off.)

The attraction now is working closely with someone who sees the world similarly, but not in exactly the same way: two heads are better than one!

How did you begin your relationship? What did you do to start to build trust and communication?

We met over tea and cake, and quickly discovered a shared set of values and respect for each other’s experience.

Then we worked out how we would keep ourselves up to speed, and some ground rules for our colleagues – so we are available to each other on our days off (if we need a quick conversation) but not to others, and we make sure we both establish relationships with key stakeholders so that they feel comfortable working with either of us.

How do you manage your differences in style and approach?

By talking to each other. After almost 14 years we can pretty much predict what the other will think/feel, but we try not to assume. We are generally consistent – but we’re thoughtful about our differences.

What was challenging about job-sharing? How did you address these challenges?

Managing people for the first time: making sure they felt comfortable and were clear what we wanted.

We have a team of 13 at the moment – including two job shares that work for us. And being open to feedback – learning from when it hasn’t worked, particularly if we’ve disagreed on something.

How does your employer help you to become a great job share pair?

Trust. We were interviewed together (we applied as an existing job-share) and have always been trusted to make it work. People often mix us up – which we see as a positive!

What were the benefits of job sharing to you …and to your employer?

We think the employer gets the benefit of two sets of experience, and two people very committed to delivering between them.

For us – Cate wanted to work part-time because of children and Michelle runs her own coaching practice when she’s not at Acas.

Do you think there are particular qualities needed to job share? 

Being a good team player. And open to ideas.

You have to park your ego – you might have a great idea and work on it – but it’s not your end of the week when it gets pitched to the Board. It’s a true partnership, and to be successful you need to have shared values.

What does work-life balance mean to you? How do you manage your own work-life balance?

Cate: Worklife balance means working hard, and doing a great job when you’re there, and then being able to switch off when you’re not, knowing that your partner is there, doing an amazing job.

Michelle: For me, it means genuinely choosing how much of your time you spend working and how much on other areas of your life – rather than sleep walking into spending too much time on work, given that there will always be something else you could be doing from the “to do” list.

Cate and I try to set realistic goals for what’s achievable each week and over longer term chunks of time.

And Cate’s been amazingly supportive at times that have been challenging for me, such as when my mum was in hospital – giving me the chance for the balance to temporarily be more loaded towards life rather than work.

Sara Allen