Sepideh and Dorothe have been working in a job share for Global Product Development Lip Care at Beiersdorf since 2014. In the interview, they talked about why they opted for job sharing, how they organize themselves, and how their work has changed because of the job-sharing model.
You have known each other for several years and worked together in one department. How did you end up working together in a job tandem?
Sepideh: To be honest, I didn’t originally plan on doing a job share, but after my second parental leave, I wanted to get back to working as quickly as possible – but with a greatly reduced number of hours. With two small children, I realized that I could only work less than 75%. That, however, was difficult to reconcile with a role as a laboratory supervisor, like I had been previously.
Dorothe: At the time, I worked in the same department as Sepideh and shared a job with another colleague. My former tandem partner and I had a very different distribution of hours. As more changes were made in our area of responsibility, we teamed up with our supervisors to figure out how we could be more efficient. In this context, Sepideh and I ended up being able to form a job tandem, an option that I seemed right from the start.
Sepideh: I felt the same way. Dorothe and I already knew each other from a collaboration for NIVEA Beauté almost 14 years ago. The idea to form a tandem with her excited me right away. Leading a laboratory with a tandem partner gives me the opportunity to continue to be responsible for the exciting development work of a brand – as I did before my parental leave.
There have been internal changes since the beginning of your collaboration. How has this affected your daily work life in the tandem? How do you organize yourselves?
Sepideh: At the beginning of the tandem, Dorothe first worked on Florena and other projects for the Beiersdorf Pearl brands, while I was solely responsible for the projects around LipCare. The focus gradually shifted when the number of projects increased compared with previous years.
Dorothe: Even if we have clearly assigned project responsibilities, we regularly exchange information about everything. We ensure that we are as up to date as possible on all projects, so that in the absence of the tandem partner, we can provide our employees and colleagues from other departments with information or, if necessary, make decisions.
Sepideh: In order to keep up to date, we have three set dates. Once a week, Dorothe and I have a one-on-one exchange over lunch. This appointment is also the only one we have on the job as part of our job share. In addition, there is a regular update appointment with our supervisor, as well as the lab meeting, where we discuss the projects and current topics together with all employees.
In which ways do you tick similarly? How are you different?
Dorothe: First and foremost, we share common values and goals. We both want to do our best for the brand and bring good products to the market. No vanity stands in the way – we do not see ourselves as competitors.
Sepideh: At the same time, we have very different personalities. I am very pragmatic and quick with my decision-making in many ways. Dorothe, on the other hand, goes into more detail for problems and, for example, looks into the chemical background more closely.
Dorothe: Yeah, that’s right. Sometimes I may slow down, but we both find it a good fit. So, we have the optimal compromise between pragmatism and sound development work.
What excites you about the job-sharing model?
Sepideh: Job sharing is not just about enabling part-timers to work in a similar job role as a full-time job. What excites me is that we can make decisions in tandem based on the knowledge and experience of both partners.
Dorothe: Right. We keep exchanging ideas, discuss projects and open issues, and then come to a joint decision. In general, we agree quickly; that’s a good feeling.
It was a stroke of luck that you found your arrangement through a great boss. If you hadn’t been so lucky, what would have been important in your search for a partner?
Dorothe: Of course, it’s a big advantage if you know each other beforehand and know how the other works. Then you know what to expect. More important than the way of working, however, is the sense of values that should be similar between future partners. In order to learn how the other ticks and what is important to them, you should allow yourself enough time to get to know each other. It can also be useful to discuss in advance how you envision your work as a tandem and what the expectations of the partner are. From such intensive discussions you can figure out whether you fit together. It’s important that you’re honest with each other and with yourself, and do not enter into a tandem partnership just because the external conditions, like working hours, for example, fit.
What is especially important for job sharing to succeed? Do you have any tips?
Sepideh: The key to a good working relationship in a tandem is that you regularly come to agreements and keep your partner up to date. This can sometimes be seen as extra time and effort, but it creates transparency in all projects and enables decisions to be made together. Another advantage is that you can divide up general organizational tasks and be a bit more relieved overall.
Dorothe: It’s also really important to us that we form a single entity and that our decisions are coordinated. Meaning, even if we work on our different projects, we represent the LipCare lab together and speak a common language. And I’m convinced that job sharing can only succeed if you fully trust your partner.
With regard to our employees, we always make sure to have an accurate overview of the workload within the department. The arrangement of having two bosses must work well for the whole team. To ensure this, we regularly hold feedback discussions. The annual employee survey is also a good opportunity to examine how it’s working and where we need to readjust. It’s a continuous process.