Moonlighting – Cheating or Upskilling?
-By Arshiya Gupta
To begin with, let us define what moonlighting is. In the simplest terms, moonlighting is a practice wherein employees take up a side hustle in addition to their full-time jobs. But why is it that this topic has been attracting many debates and polarising opinions from executives of top companies lately? Why does it happen? Should it be allowed? Let us study the topic in depth.
A surge in moonlighting has been the trend in today’s digital age, where the workforce is becoming more mobile. The reduction of long commute hours and the ensuing exhaustion have given the employees at their disposal newly found time and energy to direct elsewhere. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic made the work-from-home model the “new normal”, which only fanned the flames of dual employment.
While there are people who choose to spend these idle hours in leisure activities, there are also people who see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to earn more money by taking up gigs like website development, consulting, and many others, or even joining as employees in other companies! For many, their full-time job may not allow them to achieve financial goals, and moonlighting helped. Moreover, this was also a chance for redemption. Personal fulfilment for the many of us who, under parental pressure, have to take up subjects that are considered lucrative and “safe”, when the ward’s true interest might be totally in another field. Moonlighting can be the ideal, financially backed way to explore different work pathways and know one’s true area of interest and potential proficiency. Working a second job allows them to pursue their passions and hobbies in a more meaningful way. For example, a data analyst might take up gigs to play the guitar from time to time and continue playing the instrument. Furthermore, an employee can learn and hone complementary skills of his choice through a side job. Experience can be gained in different roles, which is especially beneficial for someone looking for a change in careers. Companies are also benefited by this. Due to the aforementioned reasons, not only does a happy and satisfied employee contribute more to the company, but it also makes the company popular as an employer of choice due to the flexibility offered. So far, moonlighting sounds like a win-win situation, so why the controversies around it?
Looking at the dark side of it, moonlighting raises many concerns, both for the employee and the employer. As for the employee, juggling two jobs is not a cakewalk and causes mental and physical burnout. This can overpower the happiness of job satisfaction and more wealth and prove counterproductive by limiting the performance of the employee in either of the jobs. This doesn’t only pose a problem for the company, but also places the employee in a position where he may be dismissed from his role. Hence, it is arguable if dual employment helps attain better job satisfaction or just job stress. Moreover, one may have to sacrifice many things, like spending time with family and other leisure activities. Employers have concerns about data confidentiality, especially in cases where an employee is found working for a company in the same industry or a firm seen as a competitor. An employee’s productivity and contribution are also major concerns. Additionally, they may use the company’s resources for their second job, increasing operating costs.
These are very concerning reasons for the IT companies in particular, as they are highly data-driven and there is always a risk of data and knowledge leaks. Hence, these companies often prohibit this practice. Wipro called it “cheating” and terminated 300 employees working for its competitors simultaneously. Infosys has also warned its employees against moonlighting.
Although there is legally no clear-cut policy as to whether a person can hold two jobs at the same time, every employee is bound by the employee contract they sign while joining a company, and typically, most companies prohibit the practice.
But on the flip side, it is undeniable that there has been a structural shift in the minds and attitudes of the workforce, and moonlighting is here to stay. In a country like India, the problem of choosing subjects that are not in a student’s best interest is very prevalent, which limits the careers and capabilities of many. If moonlighting can help curb the problem even in the slightest, it can be of major benefit to the whole economy, with a more satisfied and motivated workforce.
If practised properly, keeping in mind the time intensity of both working hours and the possibility of conflict of interest without compromising productivity in either job, workers should be free to moonlight. Instead of prohibiting moonlighting altogether, companies should come out with specific policies as to this and work in the best interests of both companies and employees. For example, taking up a job in a rival company can be prohibited justly, but taking up a job that doesn’t affect the present working of the employee and may only improve it should be allowed and even supported. If a company is still opposed to the idea of moonlighting altogether, it may choose to develop plans to think about the employee’s career development and provide advancement opportunities within the organisational constraints.
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