The last two years of the pandemic introduced several changes in the way we work and live. The biggest change for organizations was the opening up of the possibility of employees working from home. This seemed like a sub-optimal way of working when it first began, and most of us assumed this was a phase that would die down once the pandemic subsided.
But as wave after wave of the deadly virus hit us, it became difficult to ask employees to return to the office. Furthermore, employers realized that the productivity of their employees didn’t fall when they worked from home, and in some cases even improved.
From the point of view of employees, working from home saved them hours that they used to spend on office commutes earlier. One of the fallouts of this extra time on hand was the increase in a phenomenon commonly known as moonlighting, which we shall examine in this blog.
What is moonlighting?
Moonlighting refers to the taking up of a secondary job other than the regular one, usually without informing the primary employer. The reference to moonlight is because the second job is usually done at night, after regular working hours.
If we look outside the IT industry, moonlighting has been a fairly prevalent practice for a long time. Some examples are teachers giving private tuition after school hours, housekeepers working at multiple houses throughout the day, or doctors seeing patients at home or in their chambers after their shift at the hospital is over.
The start-up world is replete with stories of founders who continued their day jobs for some time while building their own companies. There could be several reasons for an employee to attempt moonlighting. The most common reason is to ensure some extra income to offset rising inflation and living costs. Another objective is to create an employment backup in times of high job volatility.
Some employees also take up such side gigs when they feel their current jobs are not providing enough learning or upskilling opportunities.
How employers are affected by moonlighting
There are two distinct schools of thought regarding moonlighting, especially for white-collar jobs in technology-based companies. Some employers feel that moonlighting by their employees is acceptable and even welcome as long as there is no conflict of interest and their productivity on the primary job does not suffer.
The other point of view is that moonlighting is unethical, and even illegal, and there have been a few cases in 2022 when employees found to have been moonlighting were terminated from their primary jobs.
The difference between these two extremes lies in the type of additional work that the moonlighting employee is taking up, and the extent of time that is spent on that work.
An employee who takes up an additional job where resources from the primary job would be needed is indulging in a clear breach of trust and cannot be tolerated or encouraged. On the other hand, if the additional work is completely unrelated, or better still, provides some learning that can help in the primary job, then the employer would welcome it.
Irrespective of which of these two categories an employer is a part of, there are a few things that can be done to deal with moonlighting in a win-win way.
Dealing with moonlighting
- The first thing that can ease the complications associated with moonlighting is transparency from both employer and employee. Employers must embrace the idea that not all moonlighting jobs are bad.
- A detailed non-compete document/policy listing the scenarios in which moonlighting is not acceptable can be created and shared. For example, the use of confidential company or client data, working on similar projects, or slacking on company responsibilities are things that must be avoided or can result in termination from the primary job.
- From the employee’s point of view, a candid chat with the manager before taking up such an assignment can help. This is possible if the employer is able to create an atmosphere where such transparency is not punished.
- If an employer has decided that moonlighting is not permissible, then a specific clause is inserted in the offer letters for new hires, and organization-wide communication for current employees would be required.
- Meatier job roles and a relook at the compensation structures might also help avoid the temptation of moonlighting.
- In terms of deterrence, a dependable employee background verification company can be deputed to check on employee provident/401k records to see if there are multiple employment records for the same person.
The mindset of the present-day job-seeker is quite different from her predecessors, and organizations need to be cognizant of this shift when they deal with moonlighting. Not all instances of moonlighting would be detrimental to the primary employer and might even be encouraged. In case the converse is true, and a moonlighting employee is harming the employer’s business or reputation, then it must be dealt with appropriately.
cFIRST is a global leader in digital background screening services that lets companies make better-informed hiring decisions and create robust workforces. Over the years, cFIRST has become a trusted verification partner for several Fortune 500 companies and new-age start-ups.