Moonlighting: A new trend or a ghost from the past?
Television actor Tom Selleck grows avocados, saying that physical activity is an excellent antidote to the stress of his on-screen life.
Door-to-door fax machine seller Sara Blakely worked on her side business making hosiery for two years to support her cost of living. It led to Spanx – a globally recognized shapewear brand.
At some point, we all have likely balanced a full-time job with a side business, or at least we know someone who has or does. Actors, musicians, and many other professionals across occupations have been doing it for a long time. Moonlighting has always been there, but now it is visibly creeping into the lives of those with more knowledge-oriented jobs.
While some employees take up extra work outside their full-time employment to make ends meet, others do it to pursue their passion. Remember: Batman was the CEO of three companies dealing in real estate, foodstuffs, textiles, manufacturing, and entertainment by day and at night fulfilled his mission to save the world.
If this has long been a common phenomenon, why the hype now? And why are we referring to it as moonlighting?
What does moonlighting mean?
Moonlighting is when an employee holds more than one job or is employed in more than one place. They could be holding two full-time positions or working a couple of hours extra on another project outside their full-time position.
The moonlighting trend gained attention when employers noticed that employees had started working two full-time remote jobs without informing either organization and, even worse, not doing all that much work either! While no law completely bans this type of moonlighting, a variety of problems can arise from it, the most serious of which can be grouped as follows:
Safety risks: Excessive working hours lead to serious safety incidents, but employers could be found in breach of their safety duties when they fail to properly manage an employee’s working hours and rest periods.
Inadequate rest periods: When an employee works full-time with one employer and works a second job with another employer, it is unlikely that the employee gets the required rest.
Poor performance: Excessive work hours can also affect employees’ abilities to adequately perform their duties. Fatigue from inadequate rest may lead to mistakes, poor communication, decreases in productivity, and changes in behavior.
While the above factors may hamper an organization’s workflow, at the same time, they point to an extreme level of employee exhaustion. Why are employees taking this burden upon themselves daily? Is the reason behind moonlighting a desire to fatten the savings account or something much deeper?
Reasons for employee moonlighting and how employers can deal with it
The current global economic downturn is the worst since WWII. Businesses have a plan for enduring difficult times. Likewise, a regular employee may sometimes have a strategy for such occurrences. Layoffs frequently happen in a weak economy.
However, when it comes to moonlighting, it’s only sometimes about earning a few extra bucks. Let’s look at why people take up a second job.
#1 Extra source of income
Though it’s not the only reason employees take up a second job, making extra money is and will remain one of the most important reasons. While moonlighting may have previously been a way to earn extra income, it could now be a source of income merely to meet living costs or pay off debts.
With inflation skyrocketing to 8.3% year over year in August 2022, in the US alone, nearly 70 percent of the working population is now looking for a second job to supplement their income.
Solution: In a study by SHRM, 63% of employees reported compensation as their motivator for moonlighting, and only 23% of those employees said they were satisfied with their current compensation. Suppose an employee struggles to cover everyday necessities including gasoline, groceries, and their rent or mortgage payment or does not see the potential to increase their compensation with their current organization. In that case, they are likely to look for an extra source of income somewhere else. Employers should consider giving employees a pay raise taking into consideration their tenure, performance, and sometimes even inflation.
However, employers can also offer non-salary perks to offset inflation and help employees improve their financial status:
- Flexible work schedules that help cut down on commuting costs
- Free meals or snacks
- Transportation reimbursement
- Additional paid time off
- Childcare assistance
- Housing assistance
#2 Pursuing a passion
According to a Harris Interactive survey, only 20 percent of American workers feel passionate about their jobs. Yet passion is the trait that makes the most difference in employee output and commitment to your company. While dispassionate employees may keep their noses to the grindstone and get the job done, if they lack passion for the work, they’re missing the key ingredient for sustained, long-term performance.
Swiggy, a food delivery service app, allows its employees to work on their passion projects outside their work.
Solution: One of the main pillars of employee passion is acquiring and creating new knowledge. Personal growth drives the passionate employee.
We think of an individual’s pursuit of self-development as an isolated effort motivated from within. However, that is only partially true. The reality is that several external factors can influence one’s approach to personal growth.
Companies can maximize their employees’ ability to learn and bring new perspectives to the business. In other words, if you understand that personal growth feeds company growth, you can offer upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling opportunities to your employees. An organization that wants a passionate workforce should encourage employees to develop new skills. This is another good reason for moonlighting.
#3 Exploring creativity
Finding a spark of creativity can make a Herculean task fun and smooth. But unfortunately, the stress of the pandemic, working remotely, or maybe just a stagnant office can thoroughly dampen the creativity of the most robust employee.
According to the Udemy Workplace Boredom study, “43% of workers were bored, while 51% of bored workers felt this way for more than half of their work week.” Bored employees will eventually leave, become unproductive, be disruptive, or burn out. Or just start moonlighting to find another source of work that makes their creative juices flow.
What can you do? There are quite a few things, actually:
- Spread boring tasks evenly across the team
- Allow employees to propose new projects
- Automate manual and repetitive tasks
- Let employees take regular breaks
- Use gamification to directly improve your business processes
- Encourage a focus on health and well-being
Should you stop employees from moonlighting?
The question of how an employer should deal with employee moonlighting has a variety of answers. The best way to handle this situation will differ from person to person, company to company, and industry to industry. Book a consultation with HRForecast to learn about many options to manage your workforce in the best way for your organization.