How an Ohio plant pairs off more than 50 people

Five years ago, job-sharing at the Rolscreen Company in Pella, Ohio, was in the experimental stage. The manufacturer of windows and patio doors, which employs about 1,750 people, now has 46 worker-pairs in the factory and six pairs in the office.

Like many other companies, Rolscreen started its program at the request of an employee who needed more time with her family. The manager agreed to a year's trial. After accepting 10 more pairs for another year's trial, says Mel Petersma , the personnel manager, ''Anybody who met the right qualifications could do it.''

One of the right qualifications means that only workers in the four lowest levels of the assembly line can share jobs. ''We didn't want to get into the more complex jobs requiring more training,'' Mr. Petersma says.

Rolscreen's job-sharers choose their own partners. The key to successful pairing, says Steve Bragg, director of human resources at the company, is ''a comparable skill level and an equally strong desire to work in a job-sharing environment. They have to be willing to cover for each other in emergencies.'' Other full-time employees don't resent them, he says, because the work always gets done.

Rolscreen found unexpected benefits in allowing its employees to share their jobs. Absenteeism dropped significantly. And when there's a surge in business, job sharers can temporarily move to full time.

Rolscreen stipulates in its contract that job-sharing teams put in occasional 40-hour weeks when needed. ''We can add 50 trained people very quickly,'' Mr. Petersma adds.

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