December 07, 2000, 5:35 PM — In the '50s and early '60s, men worked full time, women stayed home, and part-time
jobs were for students. For better or for worse, the Leave It to Beaver family
is a thing of the past. Dual-income families have become less of an exception and, in
high-priced areas such as Silicon Valley, an absolute necessity.
However, in a growing number of cases, families are finding that two full-time jobs
take too much out of their personal lives, but only one doesn't provide enough income.
The obvious solution: one and a half jobs. But in an overheated economy and era of
pressure-cooker startup positions, finding half a high-tech job is next to
More companies outside of high tech have been open to alternative work arrangements
than those inside. High-tech companies may tout the many amenities they provide their
employees -- gourmet cafeterias, workout rooms, and childcare centers -- but they skirt
the job-sharing issue.
What really makes employees happy? According to a recent Lucent NetworkCare survey,
on a scale of one to four (with four being the most important), the opportunity to
learn new skills weighed in at 3.8. Monetary recognition scored a 3.4, just barely
above availability of flextime and a balanced workweek, both at 3.3.
In most high-tech startups, where employees tend to devote their lives to the
company, job sharing is nonexistent. More established high-tech companies may be a
little more flexible. Though networking giant Cisco
Systems doesn't offer job-sharing benefits, they're not completely unheard of at
Sun Microsystems. Out of 2,961 jobs posted on Sun's
Website, only one was a job-sharing position.
A full morning of calls to Silicon Valley firms and headhunters yielded
disappointing results. Responses ranged from "Job sharing -- what's that?" to "No, we
don't do job sharing." Dice.com, one of the largest
high-tech job boards with 241,000 jobs posted, delivered 12 hits from three companies
when I entered "job share" in my search parameters. And most of those 12 hits came from Weyerhaeuser, a forest products company.
One of the most family-friendly high-tech employers is
href="http://www.lucent.com">Lucent Technologies. Spokesperson Bill Price says
that 31 percent of the company's employees have some sort of job flexibility, "ranging
from someone with a laptop and phone line for occasional working at home to full job-
sharing or telecommuting arrangements." He says job sharing and flexibility in general
are very important aspects of Lucent's policy. Though a certain amount of flexibility
is necessary in a tight labor market, Price says that "a lot of the technology that
makes this possible is technology that we ourselves provide."