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"Sharing is caring"

The balancing act that classic part-time work requires, is something that Géraldine Weilandt, Marketing Director Pharmacy Germany is well aware of from her 20-years of Beiersdorf experience. That is why she's a strong advocate in her department for flexible working models and job sharing. Since January she has the first job sharing tandem in her team: Julia Kutz and Wiebke Maerker-Scheel in their role as Group Brand Manager for Eucerin Face Care. In conversation with us the three of them discuss their motivations and experiences from their day-to-day work lives. 

Geraldine Weilandt
Géraldine Weilandt, Marketing Director Pharmacy Germany

Géraldine Weilandt, what makes job sharing so attractive from your perspective?

Géraldine: "There are a lot of reasons. First, you just don't have the disadvantage of the classic part-time position, the week is covered, and someone is always there. Second, I notice significant advantages when two people with different profiles and strengths work so closely together. This enriches the output! Third, and this is really an enormous plus, with a tandem I don't have any more vacation gaps. Even if both of them are not always there, at least one half is."

Julia Kutz and Wiebke Maerker-Scheel, how is the job sharing working out, how did the start phase go?

Wiebke: “Before we started together we talked to other job sharers and looked at various models for dividing up work hours and organising the hand-over. Then it was time to get the whole thing rolling and to start in day-to-day business – ideally without compromising the team or work… After some refining and adapting we found a good way to be organized. We enjoy our time together during which we work on important issues together. But we also enjoy having a partner thinking for us when we're not there, keeping our email inbox in check, coordinating the calendar so that in our free time we're really free to be with our families.”

Wiebke Maerker Scheel and Julia-Kutz
Sharing one job: Wiebke Maerker-Scheel (l.) and Julia Kutz

How specifically do you organize yourselves, how do you arrange things and share information?

Julia: “Each of us works 2.5 days in the office and 3 hours in home office. We’re only together in the office one morning – on Wednesday – for handing over work and for joint team meetings. We share one email address and calendar, we've established strict storage rules for emails and documents and organize the handover with a running project list which we constantly maintain. We go through it if we can with every handover, so twice a week, either on the phone or in the office together.”

Can you compare it to a typical part-time job from your experience, and if yes, do you notice the differences?

Julia: “I did the job alone for two months before Wiebke and I started working together: Five days a week 9-2:30. In my opinion a position at this level can't be adequately covered with a classic part-time model. In addition to diverse meetings there's just far too little time in the office – especially for your employees. At the end of the day it's not fair to anyone, least of all to yourself.”

Wiebke: “This is already my third part-time job. After I returned from my second parental leave there wasn't an appropriate part-time position, so at first I went back to being a Product Manager. This was doable in terms of time, but I really missed the strategic work. Then I got the offer to take over as Managing Director of the Eucerin Skin Institute. A huge opportunity and position I worked on passionately. But fulfilling this full-time role in part-time was a challenge, for my family too. To me the advantage of job sharing is that it's very clearly defined who is in the driver's seat and when. On most other positions with a high level of responsibility you automatically feel bad when you’re not in the office and continue working on your smartphone when you're at home.”

What are your motivations for choosing job sharing – and what are the biggest advantages for you?

Julia: “For me the advantage is that I can take on a task with a high-level of responsibility, a task I enjoy and can still work part-time. This way I have a better opportunity to unite my professional and personal desires. Working together and therefore being able to deliver better output, however, is also a big advantage, which I hadn't been aware of beforehand.” 

Wiebke: “I want to be there for my two children, and to spend a lot of time with them. On the other hand, I have already been working at Beiersdorf for 14 years and enjoy the diverse possibilities in the company. I don't want to give that up. When Géraldine suggested a job sharing position with Julia I was enthusiastic right away: Julia had been responsible for this position just like me because she was my successor when I went on parental leave. So I already knew that we would certainly be able to occupy the position together very well.” 

What do your colleagues say about your job sharing, what are their reactions, are the first job share enthusiasts coming forward?

Julia: “The reactions have been thoroughly positive and many people are interested in how we work. It's also great that our team is so supportive and is fully on board. In moments I notice that for the person I'm talking to it's completely irrelevant which one of us he or she is talking to, that’s when I know we’re on the right track.” 

Wiebke: “Also, the way that we operate our job sharing is well received: we look out for each other and are very supportive. I've already heard a lot of colleagues saying things like ‘I'd sure like to have a sharing-partner, too.’”

What was your best job sharing moment so far?

Julia: “There are so many. But it's actually the little moments when you notice that the other person is thinking and working on your behalf, too. For example, when I come into the office in the morning after my day off, find the handover folder and a nice greeting, as well as an organized calendar and a cleaned up inbox, I can get started right away… 'Sharing is caring,' as Wiebke puts it so nicely.”  

Wiebke: “There are many moments, but the best is just the basic feeling that we can rely on each other knowing that the work will be continued even when I'm not at the office. It's also great when you notice that you make progress on issues together much faster than alone – and that's true despite having multiple handovers.” 

Thanks for talking with us!