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Moonlighting and why HR Gurus and Managers refuse to greenlight it

Balancing multiple jobs isn’t something entirely new. However, it has become more rampant after the pandemic when all of us were working from home. The popularity of remote working and remote work technology is now allowing people to work from anywhere and at any time making it easier for employees to get a second job without their primary employer knowing—otherwise known as moonlighting.

When I first heard the word moonlighting, I was confused and intrigued at the same time that I had to google for its meaning.

What is Moonlighting?

Moonlighting is when an employee works an additional part-time or full-time job on top of their regular full-time job. It is having a second job AKA a side hustle that one does secretly, without telling one’s main employer, usually done in late hours thus called moonlighting. Now some of you might be realizing that you have been moonlighting for years but never knew that you were doing such cool-sounding work.

Moonlighting is actually characterized by the phases of the moon indicating how much secondary work an employee has.

  1. Quarter moonlighting – Quarter moonlighting occurs when an employee takes on a part-time job outside their regular job, like tutoring students on weekends.
  2. Full moonlighting – Full moonlighting refers to when an employee works two full-time jobs at the same time. This type of moonlighting is likely to affect businesses the most since it takes the employee away from their primary job duties.

Why employees Moonlight

Imagine this. You have a 9-5 job that you might like, love, hate or have very mixed emotions about. Your work has become monotonous and you feel like a robot doing the same tasks every day. Or you have grown very accustomed to what you are doing now that you want to challenge yourself by doing something completely outside of your comfort zone. In occasions like this having a ‘side gig’ becomes something you would look forward to working on. It will help you enjoy working your 9-5 as well. You would notice that your learnings from both jobs are interlinked and the extra money is a bonus too! On a more practical note, finances are one of the top reasons that employees may turn to another job.

Here are a few reasons as to why a second job can be tempting.

  1. Ability to earn an additional income.
  2. Broadening career opportunities by gaining skills and experience in a new field.
  3. Pursuing a passion project.
  4. Using spare time or fighting boredom or,
  5. Feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with the current role and responsibilities.

The effect of Moonlighting

The whole debate around the topic of moonlighting today has divided HR gurus and bosses and their opinions across the world. While some call it “two timing” or “cheating plain and simple”, there are also companies greenlighting moonlighting.

Let’s face it, although companies have woken up about the practice of moonlighting only recently, it has been there for donkey years and been an open secret in the tech industry.

Then why are companies very much against it now? Let’s go through the pros and cons of moonlighting first.

The Pros of Moonlighting

  1. Getting your priorities right.
    Now that they have to utilize their time even more efficiently, employees will prioritize the important tasks over the bare minimum and will focus on the overall outcome of the tasks.
  2. Employees are motivated.
    Employees will be excited to do more. Money from two employers excites an employee to do more.
  3. Boosts growth and learning.
    Employees have the chance to grow and to learn more which results in an advantage for the primary job as well. Employees might eventually start feeling content with the job which results in the favor of the organization only

The Cons of Moonlighting

Overworking and moonlighting can be extremely damaging to your business. Employees who work multiple jobs are more likely to experience burnout, diminished motivation, and disengagement.

  1. Negative performance and productivity.
    An employee who is juggling two jobs at once is more prone to get sidetracked and neglect their responsibilities. Two jobs might cause extra stress, which can result in exhaustion or absenteeism.
  2. Conflict of interest.
    An employee may end up disclosing private information to their other employer if their second employment is in the same industry. Even if they conceal crucial information, they are still assisting your rival in gaining more clients than you.
  3. Low team morale.
    If they observe someone on the team not contributing, other team members could become resentful. When other workers begin to notice how disinterested a colleague is, it might be more difficult to keep them motivated. They might even decide to take on a second job.
  4. Misuse of company resources.
    The majority of organizations are against this. It is typically forbidden to use the equipment or software for personal or other tasks unrelated to work.
    It may also result in the leakage of sensitive company data.

What is HR doing to manage Moonlighting

In their efforts to manage moonlighting, some companies have a moonlighting policy and a few have a moonlighting ban.

What is Moonlighting Policy?

Moonlighting policy allows employees to keep the second jobs but with some conditions – that depend on the organization.

For example, Microsoft’s moonlighting policy says, “anything after hours, made using 100% of your own resources, is yours” but when it comes to Google, their policy says, “We own everything you produce unless you used no company resources”.

The former one gives free will and the latter gives a warning.

What is Moonlighting Ban?

Moonlighting ban means that the organization does not allow its employees to have side jobs and if the organization finds out about an employee moonlighting then, it can take serious legal action against that employee. That being said, there is no legal action if it’s not written into the contract.

Managing overworked employees

Many employees do not want additional employment. It is often a means to an end. HR managers can play an active role in identifying overworked employees, increasing job satisfaction, and setting boundaries and expectations to prevent employees from leaving jobs and opting for side hustles. They can do so by:

  • Engaging employees and helping them achievetheir big picture goals.
  • Initiatives such as providing employeedevelopment plans to promote professional growth.
  • Taking steps to reduce financial stress andpromote mental health at work.

Going by the contract, any employee who is moonlighting, especially with a competitor, is clearly in breach of contract, both legally and morally. In their view, it is right for companies to call for these employees to be fired to protect their interests. However, on the other hand, the employees, especially the younger generation, most of whom were onboarded in the pandemic period, do not seem to have the same opinion and they value their freedom and flexibility to pursue opportunities to grow their bank balances.

To be clear, in the future, perhaps the best way to remedy this situation is to create two separate worker-employee contracts, one for full-time employment and one for flexibility. Ultimately, the issue is not whether employees are allowed to deal with the other side, but rather that having such an option in the contract will allow them to pursue such opportunities. But they must be prepared for a compromise based on the principle of reciprocity if they are not in the game or engaged full-time with their employer.

On the other hand, who likes to lose a good employee, full-time or part-time? It is just a matter of meeting contractual obligations, full disclosure and transparency.