What is Work Sharing?

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  • Written By: Tess C. Taylor
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 January 2020
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Work sharing is a method used by many companies to cut down on operating costs without sacrificing the quality of work performed or needing to lay off employees. Generally, work sharing involves the temporary reduction of work hours and lowering of wages throughout the organization until normal levels of revenue or business activity are restored. This is a practice that many organizations use to offset dips in the economy without having to cut staffing numbers or reduce productivity.

Although it has been used in the private business sector throughout the years, work sharing is a program that is most often implemented by government agencies. The term work share is most often referred to as furloughing or government spending cuts. Employees may be asked to work a compressed schedule of four days instead of five, may reduce their shifts by a few hours, or may also be asked to work for one day without pay and use vacation time to offset their paychecks.

Work share is an option that many companies have turned to as a way of avoiding devastating layoffs and the expense of unemployment claims. In addition, it can actually increase employee morale as the entire network of employees makes a sacrifice rather than employers randomly selecting certain departments or employees to let go. As a result of work sharing, employees often team up and handle the workload in a more efficient manner because they don’t want to chance losing their jobs.


Work sharing is often adopted by companies during times of economic crisis and has been shown to be very effective at maintaining operations, so long as employees cooperate. The concept of work share actually came about as a result of the Great Depression in the 1920s and has been implemented time and again whenever the economy calls for drastic measures. It has also been used within specific industries that have been hit hard by poor revenues or other economic pitfalls.

It is important to note that work sharing should not be confused with job sharing, in which two employees voluntarily take responsibility for managing the duties of one former full-time employee. Instead, the work share arrangement leaves each person to handle his or her tasks in a more timely manner which allows for a more compressed work week.


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