The network for women whose personal and work life matter to them in equal measure.

Featured Member: Sophie van Brugen and Alex Stanger

BBC Arts and Entertainment Video Journalists

March 2014

Job-shares are becoming more and more popular in the workplace, enabling working parents to lighten their workload in order to spend more time at home as hands on parents. We spoke to video journalists Sophie van Brugen and Alex Stanger, who work for the BBC’s arts and entertainment sector, about their experiences of a job-share.

Sophie described how her boss at the BBC proposed the idea of a job-share between Sophie and her colleague Alex, as they both had babies at a similar time and a full-time position was not suitable for them as recent mothers. Described by Sophie as ‘the perfect solution’ to a work/life balance, the flexible schedule enables Sophie and Alex to still act as hands on parents whilst maintaining a career at the same time. Sophie works at the office from Monday to Wednesday, with Alex going into work at the end of the week, which she tells us she loves: ‘I love my job! I love working Thursday and Friday as everyone is so happy! I missed it so much when I was on maternity leave.’ She also refers to Friday treats, including cake in the office, and luckily she gets to miss the Monday blues. However, the lowering of working days also means longer hours when they are in the office; ‘I work three ten hour shifts per week’, Sophie tells us, ‘it’s not ideal, as I leave early for work, so my son is asleep, and when I arrive home he has already gone to bed’. Yet she does appreciate that she does get to spend time with him a lot more than if she worked 9 to 5 every day of the week.

Since Sophie and Alex have worked alongside each other even before they had children, they find it incredibly easy to work things out amongst themselves, helping each other out when necessary and possible. Alex explains how discussing issues with someone you know and trust as a friend enables you to be really honest with each other. ‘Although’, she says, ‘we try and respect each other’s space, protecting each other from work calls when we’re not working and being respectful of downtime’. However, it’s not always possible to avoid work phone calls when you’re at home; whether it’s quickly running into the bathroom for a second to lessen the sound of a fussing child in the background or distracting children with educational toys or television programmes, there are plenty of tips to try.

Although Sophie and Alex are able to stay at home for most of the week, being a mother is a full-time job in itself, and they both stress how help from others is always welcomed and appreciated. Alex tells us how she finds it very difficult balancing her job with being a mother: ‘Sometimes I can rely on other people, but I don’t have the children’s grandparents or friends living close nearby, so it’s difficult. Having all that responsibility at the same time as doing your job is crazy!’ Sophie, on the other hand, has lots of family and friends close, who she can call in favours with, ‘as long as it’s not always one-sided!’ Both mothers say there are always struggles along the way that other mothers can relate to, but it’s important to make sure you are really available at home with the family or focused in the workplace. There are always moments where the two lives overlap, however. ‘Sophie always looks really glam’, Alex tells us, ‘I’ve been meaning to get a really smart skirt and some high heels for ages, but I think lots of mothers say that.’ She also reveals how she’s experienced ‘all the classics’ that working mothers face, specifically finding one of her children’s snot on her sleeve. We’ve all been there!

There are a variety of options and support schemes available for mothers to continue with their careers once they have had children. Job shares enable working parents to achieve a fantastic work/life balance, as Sophie and Alex have demonstrated. It’s never easy being a parent, especially when you continue to work, however a job share can make things just that little bit easier!