Carey Oppenheim has had a working relationship in one form or another with Lisa Harker for years, including writing a book with her. In the summer, they were appointed co-directors at the London-based Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the progressive think tank they have worked for in the past.
Together they are among the most senior jobsharers in the country, and two of the most influential women in British politics. Their co-directorship is a sign that attitudes are changing.
"There's a strong view generally that leadership is about a single person but we're trying to show that there can be different models of leadership," Oppenheim says. "People at the IPPR have been very adaptable to the fact the person in our office may be either me or Lisa."
Oppenheim chose to jobshare because she wanted to spend more time with her two teenage daughters. For Harker, the decision came after an accident that took a long time to recover from.
"I realized during this time that I wanted more time to spend doing other things I liked and have the space to do a variety of things, both unpaid and paid," she said. "I wanted to pursue hobbies, see friends and family and to reflect on my work generally."
Both women had applied to other positions as a partnership, and found reactions varied.
"I think people were quite wary," Oppenheim says. "They felt they would be taking a double risk and they couldn't understand why we couldn't just be director and deputy director."
The two women each work three days a week with one day of crossover and say that if one leaves the job, the other will as well.
"We're a package," Oppenheim says.
So far their staff have reacted extremely well.
"Not only do we get two brains instead of one, but I think it's great that we're setting the example of how flexible working can work to the benefit of everyone in the world of policy and politics," said Sonia Sodha, a research fellow at the IPPR.
As with Oppenheim and Harker, Samia al Qadhi and Christine Fogg work three days a week as joint chief executives of the UK charity Breast Cancer Care and are similarly enthusiastic about shared leadership.
Not only do you get "double the intellectual" input at the top of an organization, al Qadhi said, but it adds rigor to decisions as they are discussed with someone who has an "equal commitment."
"What's more," she said, "it massively reduces stress, pressure and isolation because you have somebody you trust and whom you talk through worries and anxieties with."
While there are many examples of women who jobshare, few do so in senior positions. For men, jobshare arrangements are rare at all levels. But there are those who buck convention.
Simon Toseland shares his post in communications with a female colleague at Sustrans, a sustainable transport charity. He says that arrangements such as his are undervalued.
"If you get the right people, then the sum of two people working together can be more than one person working on their own as you have more energy and more enthusiasm and different people bring different approaches to the work," Toseland said.
Two days a week, Adam Coffman looks after his children. The other three days he jobshares with a woman as a senior development officer for CTC, a UK cyclists' organization. Though he has worked part-time before, this is his first official share.
"We split our role and we take turns to answer the e-mails and decide who is going to take on each issue," Coffman said.
There are few examples of men whose jobshare partners are also men. One all-male partnership is Mike Attwood and Stephen Jones, who are joint chief executives of Coventry Teaching Primary Care Trust, which deals with staff education in the UK health service.
For Oppenheim, this is a sign of success in changing attitudes toward the balance of work.
Jenny Westaway of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality in the UK, would like to see more jobsharing for both men and women.
"At the moment, you have the right to request flexible working in certain circumstances, such as having a child under a certain age," she said. "This has definitely made a difference to employees and most requests are granted."
"But one of the shortcomings of the rules is that you have to have worked somewhere for a number of weeks before you can request this, so that's different to applying to jobshare from the beginning. We want to see flexible working and jobshares among the whole workforce," she said.
"In politics I think a jobshare prime minister might be difficult," Oppenheim said. "But it would be really interesting to see whether you could have a job share at ministerial level."
Tips from jobsharers
Before applying for a jobshare:
Make sure you share the same values.
"It's great to have different styles and play to each other's strengths but it wouldn't be OK to have different values," Samia al Qadhi said. "I don't think having the same style is critical, but I do think having similar values and commitment is."
Make sure you trust each other.
"Trust is very important," Simon Toseland said. "I know someone who did a jobshare who worked with a person who relied on them to do the majority of the work and that's not a good situation."
Show employers what you have to offer together.
"We did a joint letter of application and sent individual CVs and a joint CV and set out how we would do the job together," Carey Oppenheim said.
Once you've got it:
Ensure you show a united front.
"We don't have lots of disagreements," Oppenheim said, "but it is really important that you don't allow people to play you off against each other. Have your discussions in private and then have one voice externally."
Ensure you continue to develop as an individual.
"You need to make sure that you don't just play to each other's strengths and not develop as an individual, so you have to deliberately ensure you both have the opportunity to do every part of the job," Lisa Harker said.
Don't work every day.
"It's really tempting to continue to work the other two days and you have to really force yourself not to," Oppenheim said. "Both Lisa and I need to learn to contain the work to our three days -- and that is challenging."
Talk to each other.
"You need effective communication, good handovers and admin systems that mean people don't have to tell you both the same thing," al Qadhi said.