‘I’m doing the best job in the world, thanks to jo

‘I’m doing the best job in the world, thanks to job sharing’

‘I’m doing the best job in the world, thanks to job sharing’.

ShareYourJob.com meets job share Leader of The Green Party, Jonathan Bartley. 

The Green Party are pioneers in many areas of politics and written into the party’s manifesto is a commitment to job sharing.

The party has lived up its principles, electing sitting MP Caroline Lucas and spokesman on work and pensions Jonathan Bartley as party leaders in a unique job share arrangement.

ShareYourJob.com recently met with Jonathan Bartley to ask more about the practicalities of this job share.

Jonathan has been active in Green Party politics for about seven years and stood as party candidate in his home patch of Streatham, South London in the 2015 general election and the last London Assembly elections.

He explained how the idea of job sharing first came about: “I’m passionate about Green politics and wanted to get more involved, but this was difficult, due to my personal circumstances.  I support my 14-year old son who is a wheelchair user.  My partner and I shared childcare arrangements when our first child was born – and both dropped down to part time work.” 

He first came across Caroline on demonstrations about the Independent Living Fund and realised that they could work well together.  After the resignation of former Green party leader Natalie Bennett, he approached Caroline to ask about the possibility of running for party leadership on a job share ticket: “It made sense as I need time to be able to support my son.  Caroline needs time to do MP work and constituency surgeries,” he explained.

They were duly elected Green Party leaders on a job share basis by members last September, a first in Westminster politics.  Jonathan acknowledged: “It’s been done in Germany and there are a few job shares at senior levels in the charity sector.”

So what are the key factors in making a job share of this nature successful?  For Jonathan, the starting point is being able to communicate well with your job share partner.  In addition, he stressed the importance of being on the same page and sharing the same values.   

He values the support of a job share partner in what can at times be a lonely job: “It’s important to know that someone else is experiencing the same things as you are.  I might be stuck on a train late at night and get a text from Caroline who is in a similar situation.  Having that shared experience can be very helpful,” he said.

For Jonathan, job sharing is the only way he can fulfil his caring responsibilities and continue to work. He explained: “Politics is a 24/7 business.  Many people who have real life experience can’t work like this.  

“With my son, I am fighting for doctors’ appointments, personal assistance support, carers’ allowance and endless assessments around disability.  Battling all of these things takes time.  But having this experience is really important in my politics.

“If we didn’t job share, I simply wouldn’t be able to do the job that I’m doing.”

Shortly after embarking upon the job share, both Caroline and Jonathan did a series of psychometric tests with Red Door Coaching and Training to recognise their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Said Jonathan: “It’s crucial to know where we want the party to go and we share that vision.  We have no major disagreements.”

How does the job share work in practice?  To start with, both Jonathan and Caroline had the same person co-ordinating their diary commitments.  They now both have assistants who need to communicate with each other well.

Jonathan tries to keep four days a week flexible, and one day completely clear at weekends.  A lot of the week is also structured around evening meetings.  Jonathan explained: “This means that I can help with my son’s personal care, and have the flexibility to go to his hospital appointments and physiotherapy.  Generally, I can be around in the mornings first thing to help get him up and into school and I try to be there to get him into bed as much as possible.

“For Caroline, the line between being an MP and leading the party isn’t always obvious.  We have to try to manage those days where both of us need to be at a meeting.  For example, she might be in a parliamentary debate about disability as an MP and I will be outside on Westminster Bridge with a bunch of wheelchair users.”

Jonathan and Caroline also split their work by topic. Caroline takes the energy and the environmental briefs.  Jonathan specialises in migrants, refugees and education.  

For Jonathan, job sharing means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: “Two heads are better than one.  Our position is already decided by the party, so we represent policies rather than make them.  We bring two lots of experience and perspective to an issue.  We also look to challenge each other and learn from our collective experiences.”

“Politics is all-consuming.  That’s why it’s so much of a strain on family life.  You can lose touch with the real world outside the job.”

For too long politics has been dominated by those few who have the means to work the extreme hours demanded of these roles. ShareYourJob.com was pleased to see that job sharing allows people with real-life experience and responsibilities outside of politics to influence and shape our future.

ShareYourJob.com hopes to be campaigning upon these issues in the future.

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