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Jobs and career

Two sisters job-sharing a management position

Nicole Poelestra-Bieli and Simone Bieli work together in a special job-sharing arrangement: as sisters they share a management position in customer service for corporate customers. In this article they tell us how they implement the model and reveal the secret of their personal success.

10 June 2021, text: Michèle Schaub, photo: provided Nicole Poelstra-Bieli und Simone Bieli

Zwei Frauen vor einer Wand
Sisters Nicole Poelestra-Bieli and Simone Bieli job-share a management position. "Companies", they say, "should definitely use the model more."

Nicole, Simone – you've been job-sharing a management position since October 2020. How did this come about?

Simone: "We both completed our basic training at Helvetia, after which I spent quite a long time working in pensions. In April last year I then took on a management function in the area of customer service for corporate customers, with a 50 percent workload. Nicole was also already working in the same area at the time."

Nicole: "Exactly. I returned to Helvetia five years ago, working as a deputy team leader before my second maternity leave. When the team leader position was advertised and our head of department told us that there was a possibility of job sharing, we applied directly for the position as a team. And we got it!"

How does job sharing work in concrete terms? How have you divided your work?

Nicole: "We've organized our working hours so that Simone works on Monday and Tuesday, and I take over on Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday we take turns. This way we can make sure that our customers and our staff have a contact person all week long.

Simone: "It's important for us to be able to guarantee the professional and personal support of our team despite the split. Besides day-to-day business, we are both involved in various projects. This way we can share our expertise and apply our personal strengths to the various tasks in a targeted way."

Do you see this as an advantage of job sharing?

Simone: "Absolutely. Our projects and areas of responsibility are very broad and extremely multifaceted. Two individuals naturally have rather more possibilities than one. You can divide the tasks according to skills, assigning responsibilities sensibly. It works really well for us. One general advantage of job sharing is that as an employee, you can continue to do a job that wouldn't otherwise be possible on a part-time basis. In my opinion, companies should definitely start using this model more often.

In your case job sharing is also top sharing, as you share a management role. What are the specifics of that?

Nicole: "For Simone and me, top sharing means that we pull together, presenting a unified front to the outside world. Naturally there may be differences of opinion or uncertainties between us. But I know that I always have her by my side and that I can talk to her about any issues and concerns. On the other hand, our employees know that they can turn to just one of us for a discussion any time they like. We treat their information confidentially."

Your job sharing is doubly special – you're sisters. Are you able to keep your private and professional lives separate?

Simone: "For me, my job is part of life. When we're at the playground with our children, our job is one of the things we'd talk about anyway. So we can talk right away and then tick something off. I don't mind that at all. On the contrary –I'm very grateful for this opportunity."

Nicole: "I think that as sisters we have an important basic prerequisite for job sharing: we know exactly what makes each other tick. I can talk openly with her and trust her implicitly. I personally also have a greater sense of responsibility, precisely because she's my sister.

Is that the secret of your success? What do you think the ideal job-sharing partner should bring to the table?

Nicole: "Trust is absolutely essential. As we're sisters, this was of course there from the outset. It's also important for your strengths to complement each other, for you to communicate clearly and organize yourselves. In top sharing especially, this can of course lead to competition. The best case is for you to have worked together before."

What advice would you give to job applicants?

Simone: "Be brave and try it out! Job sharing can really work. I also think this model is increasingly accepted in the working world, and it's being promoted by companies. So if you have someone among your colleagues who works well with you, don't wait to be approached by your employer. Apply directly as a team!"

Would you like to work for Helvetia too?