Almost everybody knows what a tandem is - a bicycle with space for two people. Some Daimler employees are already 'riding tandem'. But in their jobs rather than on a bicycle. They share a job and are able to adjust their life balance to suit their needs. Beate Eder and Ansgar Winbeck from Truck Purchasing have been job sharing for several months. Together they lead a team in the Procurement unit. An interview.
What prompted you to choose job sharing?
Ansgar Winbeck: For me, it was primarily because of my current family situation. I have two small children at home. That's why my partner and I decided that we both wanted to work part-time – for 30 hours each. We realized that this was the best way to meet everybody's needs and also work well as a family.
Beate Eder: I decided to reduce my hours so that I could spend more time looking after my mother, who has early dementia. Two years ago, my husband and I had to decide how to guarantee care for her. My mother absolutely did not want to go into a care home, so we thought it would be best if she came to live with us. This was a big change for all of us, of course. Thanks to my new working hours, a care-giver on call, and the option of dropping off my mother at a day-care center from time to time, I can do my job with a clear conscience and have the flexibility to attend any team workshops or meetings with suppliers.
"The value added by job sharing clearly lies in the opportunity to create freedom and organizational flexibility for oneself".
How have you found working in tandem?
Ansgar Winbeck: Beate and I have been working in the same unit for some time. We knew each other by sight. I have already had a 30-hour job-share contract before. Since Beate wanted to switch to a 30-hour week and I was ready for a job change, we proposed this combination to our managers. It proved to be a good fit - both structurally and on a human level.
Beate Eder: I had a full-time job and, for the reasons I explained, was faced with the options of reducing my working week to 30 hours or not working at all. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my former boss. It was clear that both of us preferred the 30-hour option. And thanks to his efforts, the pairing with Ansgar has worked well.
How do you split things time-wise and structurally?
Beate Eder: We both work 30 hours – meaning that the team leader is there for a total of 60 hours per week. We have arranged it so that Ansgar is there in the mornings, then I arrive at around 11.30 a.m. and stay a little longer. In our model, we are both in the office every day, with an overlap around midday.
Ansgar Winbeck: That's exactly how it is. We see each other at least once a day because I never leave before 11.30 a.m. On most days, we have lunch together with our team – that's important for both of us. On a technical and structural level, we have a setup in which we are jointly responsible for achieving the team's targets. Setting priorities has proven a success. In our case, we can split the tasks depending on the goods we purchase: Beate tends to spend more time on the warehouse side, while I concentrate more an aluminum purchasing. But we remain flexible and do whatever is required at the time.
Beate Eder: And it's a good thing, too. If something out-of-the-ordinary comes along, or if one of us has a particularly high workload, we discuss it in detail and support each other. By way of example, Ansgar took on a number of smaller projects from my unit because I am currently busy on a special case.
How does the collaboration and coordination work between the two of you?
Beate Eder: We use the time we are together at work to discuss and coordinate things - whether they be personnel or technical matters We very much appreciate this opportunity to get together to swap thoughts. After all, most team leaders have to do these things pretty much on their own.
Ansgar Winbeck: As a team leader, I can theoretically go to my colleagues for advice, of course. In our case, these discussions are already built into the structure – which is good.
"The issue of job sharing is becoming increasingly important within the company".
What does your working model mean for the team?
Ansgar Winbeck: Our co-workers are assigned to the warehouse unit or the aluminum unit, depending on their tasks. We each have technical consultation sessions in our particular area of responsibility. We prepare evaluations and feedback meetings together, although we are not both present at the same time when they take place. Once a week, we have a joint shopfloor meeting during which the whole team reports on the current situation.
Beate Eder: I think that one of the benefits for our co-workers is that they get a range of feedback and can count on the particular expertise that both of us have. Ansgar has more experience in project management, while I have more of an international background and also have experience of purchasing in the passenger-car domain. If a co-worker needs advice, they can get it from both of us or just one of us.
Do you discuss matters with other job-sharing couples?
Ansgar Winbeck: (chuckling) I do that every evening. Joking aside, I don't tend to discuss things with other couples all that much, but I do know Daimler has a platform for job sharing.
Beate Eder: We are already noticing that job sharing is becoming increasingly important within the company. As an example, there was a business lunch with our CEO Dieter Zetsche at the end of February. We were one of six tandems to be invited. It was great to see our "boss" taking time out to look at this issue, and impressive to see how well-informed about it he is. Plus, I found it fascinating to swap thoughts with him and also hear about the experiences of the other tandems.