How job sharing also succeeds in construction management

12 May 2023
When you think of job sharing, you probably don't immediately think of construction management. But Ramona and Nataša show that there is a lot of potential here. They are in charge of the construction site for special civil engineering at the district administration office in Esslingen.
Two site managers on the construction site

Going new ways

When it comes to management tasks, the traditional rule is: impossible on a part-time basis - and certainly not on the construction site. After all, the common perception is that managers should be immediately available at all times for urgent inquiries and sudden problems. Time requirements that parents with childcare responsibilities can hardly meet. For many highly qualified site managers, this widespread attitude means a change in career direction after returning from parental leave, for example in office work instead of site management.

Ramona and Nataša at ZÜBLIN Spezialtiefbau GmbH prove that things can be different thanks to innovative working time models. The experienced site managers returned from parental leave in the fall of 2022 with 30 hours each and were able to count on the support of their superiors right from the start.
"I first talked to the project manager about whether part-time work as a site manager was possible in principle and then put this proposal to the division management," says Nataša. The request fell on open ears.

  • In foundation engineering, we are a young and motivated group, many of whom are just starting a family. If we want to support these committed and experienced colleagues on their way, we have to ensure that they can continue to work in jobs that match their qualifications and enthusiasm even after they return from parental leave.

    Ralph Kühnert
    Commercial Division Manager, ZÜBLIN Spezialtiefbau

The support of commercial colleagues, suppliers and subcontractors was also fully there. "Everyone understood when I had to pick up my child from daycare at short notice or when I worked in my home office because daycare was closed. After all, the technical possibilities with video conferencing etc. are there - you just have to use them," says Ramona. "Many people have children or have to take care of their parents who are already in need of care - the issue affects so many and the need for flexible working time models is also great on the construction site. But it's often not addressed because part-time is simply not common in this area.

  • We can change that by demonstrating, as a leading company, that it can be done and, above all, how it can be done.

    Site Manager

How does job sharing work in practice?
The short answer: very well! The longer answer: It all depends on the right framework conditions! The three components of experience, trust and coordination were essential for the successful job sharing of Nataša and Ramona.

Experience helps
Nataša has seven years of experience in construction management, Ramona six years. "There you are familiar with the usual procedures, know certain recurring stumbling blocks," says Nataša. Ramona adds, "If both people have a comparable wealth of experience and certain rookie mistakes simply can't happen anymore, that's certainly an advantage. However, I could also have imagined managing the construction site together with a full-time beginner or entry-level employee."

Trust in each other
"Even though we hadn't worked together before, we could fully rely on each other," the two report in unison. The personal wavelength was right, and they also agree on the work ethic: "Each made decisions independently on her shift without having to coordinate it with the other. Of course, you need trust. In an emergency or if something was unclear, we were available for the other person or called back even after regular working hours. But that was the exception, not the rule, and it was very uncomplicated via team chat. It's also a relief to know that a second person is there in case you get sick yourself or your child does - that takes a lot of pressure off."

Coordinating with each other
Ramona works in the morning, Nataša in the afternoon. Over lunch, their working hours overlap for an hour. The two use this time to coordinate and discuss important issues. They use digital tools and conscientious filing to ensure that no information is lost. "My biggest concern was that information would get lost and someone could take advantage of that. That, for example, a subcontractor would claim: but I worked it out differently with her colleague yesterday," says Nataša. "But this worry was unfounded, it never happened."
"For us, job sharing has proven its worth," Ramona and Nataša agree. "Without this model and the stroke of luck that we had the construction site virtually right on our doorstep, we wouldn't have been able to return as site managers so easily after parental leave." Some factors have to fit for this, of course:

  • The most important thing is the support and acceptance of the entire team, from the supervisors to the industrial colleagues to the subcontractors. The right job-sharing partner is needed and, of course, the daycare centers must also play along in the event of childcare obligations.

    Site Manager

For her, childcare in the afternoon worked out and she was therefore able to work in the afternoon. In many cases, however, the limited afternoon opening hours of the daycare centers do not allow this.

A model with potential
Part-time work in construction management certainly has potential - even without job sharing: "In larger projects, where several site managers are planned from the outset, we believe that part-time work is much easier to implement, and the same applies to smaller projects. In any case, we hope that the job sharing model will become better known within the Group and that other areas will also benefit from our positive experience," Nataša and Ramona conclude.

Job sharing in construction management: how it works in practice.