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Job share partnership Theresa Clark and Ryan O’Shea talk about how the arrangement is good not just for them, but for their employer, Lloyds Banking Group.
In late 2021 Theresa Clark was in her 60s and looking to retire, but couldn’t afford to. She felt frustrated and tired. “I felt ready to slow down, but didn’t think I could,” she says. Then she took part in a pilot run by her employer, Lloyds Banking Group, which aimed to help people think about their later working years. The pilot introduced the possibility of phased retirement and Theresa spoke to a financial adviser about her personal situation. She realised that a cliff edge retirement might not be the best thing for her, going from 100 mph to zero just like that. She started looking at the possibility of drawing down part of her pension and going part time in her job in the Learning – People & Places team. She spoke to her line manager who suggested a job share. Theresa’s initial response was that it wouldn’t work. She thought she would want to be in charge of her own portfolio.
Then she reflected more on the suggestion and went back to her line manager. If she could find her a job share partner who would allow her to keep her own portfolio, she said, a job share could work.
Ryan O’Shea had been Theresa’s line manager for a couple of years. Theresa knew him well and she was aware that they had very different styles of working that could complement each other. Ryan had moved to Wales and was looking to spend more time with his husband who was older than him and had recently retired. The death of Ryan’s mum at a relatively early age had also prompted a rethink about his life. He was originally asked by Theresa’s line manager to recruit a job share partner for her. But then he thought the solution might lie closer to home. He spoke to his husband and considered his finances. Reducing his hours meant taking a lower ranked position. He decided to take the plunge after talking to Theresa about how a job share partnership would work.
Logistics wise, Theresa and Ryan decided on a crossover day – Wednesday – when they could both attend key meetings and do a handover and they discussed other practical issues, such as a shared mailbox. If there is anything urgent that comes up they are happy to take the occasional call outside their working days. Both Theresa and Ryan had been working remotely before the pandemic so they were used to being in different locations.
The transition went much more smoothly than they had anticipated. Ryan says he was worried about the move away from management, but, because he knew Theresa, it was much easier than he had thought. “In management, I was more away from the detail of things and I have been able to leverage Theresa’s experience to get into that detail,” he says. After six months the arrangement was reviewed and is now permanent.
The benefits have been huge for both Theresa and Ryan – and for Lloyds. Both say they have realised how much they love their jobs as they are not so rushed and have time out to do other things, like gardening and going for walks for Ryan and getting involved with the local parish council for Theresa. She has become the council’s clerk, has been able to get to know people in her parish better and is leading a committee organising an event for the king’s coronation. “I am realising I have skills that can be used outside of work,” she says.
When it comes to the benefits for Lloyds, Theresa says the bank doesn’t lose her experience and skills and that together she and Ryan are better than they were on an individual basis. “We bounce ideas off each other and have different skillsets and strengths which makes for better outcomes,” she says. Ryan adds that he has greatly benefited from Theresa’s 45 years of experience. Also, because she is very different to him, it forces him to think in a different way. He says: “I have to anticipate how she might think before I make a decision. As a result our stakeholders and the learners we support see the benefits. There is more wisdom in some of the decisions we make.”
He adds that having a sounding board for his ideas means that the job share partnership probably needs less line management. “We are fairly self sufficient,” says Ryan. Theresa agrees that the decisions they make are more thought through. “There is always something that Ryan suggests that I have not thought about so our decisions are more robust,” she states.
They can also play to each other’s strengths by distributing work in a way that suits their different skillsets. Theresa adds that she has developed her skills through working with Ryan and feels more confident.
Ryan says: “A lot of people find our situation strange. They think job shares are for working mums, but neither of us has children. It’s just about balance.”
Theresa adds that she too had always thought of job shares as being for mums looking to progress their careers. She says: “I hope we have broken the mould and portrayed different opportunities for job shares.”
Ryan has taken a big cut in his earnings, unlike Theresa, but he says the benefits are so great that he doesn’t regret it. He has lost weight through gardening and he has time for his husband and for himself. He says: “I can take the dogs for walks on the beach. Nothing is rushed any more. I don’t feel I am on other people’s time schedule. I can meet my neighbours and build relationships. When I was full time I never felt I could switch off. I have had to discipline myself to work three days a week, but I am more protective of my time now.”
Theresa agrees and says she puts her laptop in a drawer on Wednesday so she can switch off. Her work on the parish council means she feels she can give back to her community. She states: “I have plenty of time to fit things in and if I want to switch off and sit in the garden I can.”
*Lloyds Banking Group won this year’s Best for Older Workers award at the WM People Top Employer Awards. For information on all the winners and, crucially, what they do and what impact this has in the WM People Top Employer Awards, look out for our Best Practice Report, coming later this month.