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Share a job, keep a job

Among work-related predicaments, how to balance job and family is one of the oldest. Surely, it predates how to dress for casual Friday or how to agree on a place for lunch.

Cheryl Graziose faced the work/family quandary when she was expecting her first child almost 20 years ago in Fort Lauderdale. She didn't want to give up her job as a pharmacist, but she wanted time to raise her family as well.

There aren't a lot of options for professionals who want to work part time, she said. Fortunately, a director at a sister hospital called her and said, "I'm looking for two people to share a job. Are you interested?"

Graziose, now living in Palm Harbor, has been a job sharer ever since. That's when two or more workers share the duties of one full-time job, or when multiple workers who have unrelated part-time assignments share the same budget line.

Graziose came by her first job share easily, but she knows that's not always the case. Even if companies are amenable to job sharing, they don't always have the time or resources to work out the details.

To help with the matchmaking, Graziose, 46, launched www.JobShare Connection.com at the end of September. Only a handful of people have registered, but she hopes that eventually, workers across the country will use it to find job share partners.

She talked to the St. Petersburg Times about job sharing, and what's in it for companies and their workers.

Job sharing isn't addressed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets federal rules on minimum wage and overtime pay. Instead, job sharing is just an agreement that an employee has to work out with his or her employer. Are most employers amenable to it?

Well, I was a little concerned about how this (Web site) was going to work, until I started looking into it myself. I spent hours looking at each of these companies in the 100 best companies to work for in Working Mother magazine, and almost all of them job share. So that kind of solidified my thought that there's a lot of companies that already have worked it out. The problem is finding someone who wants to do it with you.

Are certain fields more accommodating to job sharing?

I have friends who are nurses and in human resources who job share. It's pretty easy for a pharmacist to share a job. I'm really surprised that a teacher could job share, but that seems to be a big area where job sharing is going on.

Who else, besides working parents, can benefit from job sharing?

I think it would be a great way to semiretire. Or if you're a 30-year-old going back to college. There are different ways of job sharing. You can work 20 hours and somebody else can work 20. You can work 32 and somebody else can work 8.

What are the benefits for employees?

I really have been able to balance my life and my work time. I've been able to be home with my kids a couple of days a week. In the past, I've worked at a hospital where four of us shared two full-time positions. We used to cover each other's vacations, we used to call each other the night before and say, 'My kid's sick; can you work for me?' It worked really well.

What about the employers?

You don't have to call an agency and have somebody come in who's never been there to cover for vacations. I can do that, and you still don't have to pay me overtime. I am usually so excited to be at my job. I go there and I work really hard because I'm not burned out, because I'm not there 40 hours a week. (Also) for the employers, you get two people's outlook on how to do things.

Isn't that a drawback? Some people would say it's not efficient to have two people handling one job.

It requires a lot of communication between the two people to make sure that things don't get swept under the rug, that there's a good continuity of the work.

"I figured, 'Well, if you can find a date on the Internet, certainly you can find someone to work with.' "

Cheryl Graziose, 46 and a mother of three, works 20 to 30 hours a week for Bi-Wise Pharmacy. She and two other pharmacists share two full-time jobs. She hopes her Web site will help other workers make similar arrangements.

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