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Moonlighting: A Blessing or Curse?
Employee Centricity

Moonlighting: A Blessing or Curse?

Gaurav Sharma
January 20, 2023
6
mins

The working world is changing as we know it. People no longer work the same job until retirement and hope to use their retirement benefits to survive in their sunset years. 

Employees now want financial freedom and are open to taking up several jobs parallely to earn more money — a phenomenon known as moonlighting. This practice has quickly gained more prominence with the pandemic and financial crisis as one job just doesn't cut it anymore.

But are such practices acceptable in the modern workplace?

Well, let’s find out and discover how they can impact your organization.

What is Moonlighting?

Moonlighting, traditionally, refers to the practice of employees to work two jobs, one during the day, and the other, at night, that's why, moonlighting is also known as a side hustle. But changes in job environments and remote work have made it possible for employees to do multiple jobs during the same work hours.

Advancements in technology and tough economic conditions have made moonlighting an attractive option for employees too. 

For instance, record high inflation figures have seen a growing number of employees take extra jobs to make ends meet. 

The percentage of people working multiple jobs in the US has increased from 4.0% in April 2020 to 4.9% in September 2022, according to a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Percentage of people working multiple jobs

The pandemic has also made people consider taking several jobs. With the massive layoffs and work-from-home arrangements because of the pandemic, employees have embraced remote work and the opportunities it presents. 

At the moment, it’s not uncommon to see someone work as a full-time employee for one company and as a part-time remote worker for other organizations. 

That said, moonlighting opportunities are not just available remotely. A 24-hour economy presents many opportunities for moonlighting jobs such as:

  • An intern working full-time at a company can wait tables at a restaurant in the evening to make ends meet. 
  • A teacher at a middle school can be teaching ballet classes to youth at a local studio during after-hours. 
  • A truck driver can work as a delivery man for a tech startup during their time off

Is Moonlighting Ethical?

Can Jane, a junior procurement officer, start an internet business during her free time to make ends meet?

Is it okay for Fred, a sales representative, to use tools like Zoom to teach English to foreigners from 6 pm – 8 pm after work?

What if George, a software engineer at ABC, decides to work part-time as a backend engineer for XYZ. Bear in mind that XYZ is ABC’s main competitor and targets the same customer base. 

These situations raise a lot of questions regarding the morality of employees and whether moonlighting is ethical or not.

On the face of it, there are no ethical concerns with moonlighting if the employee is delivering what they’ve promised you. 

Generally, an individual can work multiple jobs successfully without any negative consequences to themselves or their primary organization. 

However, some cases present ethical issues that affect employee engagement and organizational performance. This usually happens when a moonlighting employee performs a similar role for a competing organization. 

This situation can cause proprietary breaches for one or both of the organizations. If you are concerned that sensitive company information could get into the wrong hands because of employee moonlighting, it's best to implement a moonlighting policy. 

Also read: What is Employee Handbook?

How to Determine if You Need a Moonlighting Policy

While moonlighting has numerous benefits for employees like higher incomes, it poses a lot of risks to employers that need the attention of HR managers. 

As an employer, it shouldn’t bother you what an employee does during their free time. However, to manage business expenses well, you need to ensure that they’re giving their fullest during work hours.

After that, they are free to do whatever they like and don't need your permission before undertaking any income-generating activities. 

However, some situations may not work and might require you to come up with a moonlighting policy for your business. Consider the following circumstances when deciding if you need a company policy for employees who decide to moonlight:

  • Fatigue – Depending on the nature of the job and the number of hours they clock in their secondary job, the employee may be too tired to effectively perform their duties as required. This will not only affect their productivity, but also their safety and that of others.

For example, a factory worker who moonlights elsewhere may be too fatigued when they start their normal shift. With the worker exhausted and not at their best, their productivity will drop drastically. 

  • Hours – For hourly employees, a secondary moonlighting job may reduce the number of hours they are available to work for your company. In this case, you may have to set a moonlighting policy requiring workers to make themselves available to your organization for a certain time. 
  • Distractions – A worker may be distracted when working for your organization by tasks associated with their second job. This may reduce their on-job productivity and affect their concentration at work. This is especially true if they’re doing both the jobs during the same work hours. 

For example, a hotel receptionist who runs a secondary online business may be too distracted by calls such that they don't pay attention to guests checking in at the hotel. This can annoy the guests who may give the hotel a negative review. 

  • Conflict of interest – In some situations, an employee’s second job may be a conflict of interest with your organization. They could be working with a competitor, for instance. This can result in your company secrets being exposed to your competitors and other unauthorized parties.

Should you notice that any of these factors are affecting the performance and productivity of your employees, it’s time to set up a moonlighting policy. 

A strong moonlighting policy defines the expectations you have of employees as they work for your organization rather than limiting what they do during their free time. 

For example, you can state that employees should dedicate themselves to your company during specific hours of the week and their performance should not be affected by any external circumstances. Similarly, you can come up with a list of companies they can’t work with.

Create an email list of all your employees and send them a copy of your organization’s moonlighting policy. Get them to read it and send back a signed copy of the document to make it official.

Conclusion

Tough economic times and advancements in technology have made moonlighting an attractive option for employees. The extra income from a second job helps employees make ends meet and become financially stable. 

However, it’s important to effectively manage staff while they go about moonlighting. And that’s where a moonlighting policy can make a lot of difference. It’s a great way to embrace your employees’ wishes while keeping your company’s interest intact.

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Sneha

October 25, 2021

A very inspiring list. Thanks for putting this together

Vanessa

October 25, 2021

This is such a great list of women leaders! More power to you all

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