- Overemployment is when an employee works two full-time jobs simultaneously.
- The overemployed may be working for two different companies, or they may be pursuing their own business as an alternate stream of income while still working full-time.
- Overemployment is a result of the confluence of growing remote work and gaps in the labor market, particularly in the IT industry.
- In some cases, overemployment may not affect the employer’s company, and greatly increase the overemployed worker’s earnings. In other cases, however, it can lead to burnout and present potentially dangerous security breaches.
The rise of remote work has changed the work environment dramatically. Overemployment, or employees working more than one full-time job simultaneously, is one related trend which can greatly effect both employers and employees.
While the prospect of taking home two full-time salaries may be tempting, there are potentially negative legal, career-related, ethical, and health consequences to becoming overemployed.
For employers, as long as there is remote work, there may always be the potential that employees will want to work other jobs at the same time. Employers should look at the risks posed by overemployment, and take steps to mitigate them before they become major issues.
What is overemployment?
Overemployment, also known as ‘moonlighting’, has been around since before the pandemic and the rise in remote work. For years, many people have worked a full-time job while also devoting time to their side hustle or hobby in order to grow an alternative revenue stream. Today, however, overemployment often means that a worker is working two full-time salaried positions.
In the past, working two jobs was simply not physically possible for highly paid professionals who were tied to an office, but remote work has changed all of that.
Moreover, many remote workers are in the IT industry. Many of these jobs are project-based and results-oriented, so if the employee is able to complete their work within deadlines and have plenty of time to spare, it is possible for them to engage in other work simultaneously. The asynchronous working style common in IT and development work may also make it easier for employees to secretly manage two employers at once.
What are the benefits of overemployment?
The main benefits of overemployment, unsurprisingly, accrue to the employee. The employee can enjoy two full-time incomes, but also double benefits packages.
- Increased income. If the employee’s second job is a home-based business, they can build multiple streams of income which will provide them security in the event of a recession, layoff, or should they simply wish to leave their full-time job.
- Skill-building. Overemployment can also allow employees to develop or learn new skills. For instance, they may be a full-time programmer who also has the potential to be a strong writer. By accepting an additional job as a contributing writer, or starting their own blog for other programmers, they can increase this skill while earning more money.
While there may not be any apparent direct benefits of overemployment to employers, there are some indirect benefits. Some jobs and skills are simply in such high demand that overemployed workers are filling gaps in the market.
What are the downsides of overemployment (for both employee and employer)?
For employers, there are a few risks that come with overemployment:
- The overemployed could pose a risk to their intellectual property (IP). If an employee is using exclusive tools or content for independent projects or for a competitor, this will of course undermine the value of their employer’s company and products. Beyond cases of outright IP theft, an employee could use internal knowledge to help a competitor or to create their own competing business.
- The overemployed may misuse resources. Less potentially harmful but still of concern to employers may be the fact that the employee is using company resources to work for another company.
- Work quality might degrade. While overemployment may not have negative consequences on work quality during slow times, there may be times when both jobs become demanding and the employee is simply unable to complete their work on time and to the necessary standards.
What are the downsides of overemployment for employees?
For employees, overemployment can have its pitfalls as well:
- Excessive work load. As mentioned earlier, workloads are not always consistent at all times. During certain times of year they may be able to accomplish both jobs within a 40-hour workweek, however, there may come other times when the employee has to work extreme overtime hours just to accomplish the minimums expected for both jobs.
- Risk of burnout. Even if the workload is not too great, the overemployed can still experience burnout and fatigue due to the stress of answering to two bosses, working with multiple teams, and keeping two independent schedules simultaneously.
How should employers respond to overemployment?
Employers hiring remote workers should decide what dangers, if any, are posed to them by overemployment. If they simply find it unacceptable that their employees would work simultaneously for someone else or on their own project, this can be included in contracts as grounds for termination.
Other employers may not mind so long as benchmarks and KPIs are achieved, and the overemployed are not helping their competitors. In such cases, a non-competition clause in the employment contract will provide some degree of safety. Beyond this, the employer should maintain good communication and a good relationship with employees, and a robust remote onboarding experience, to foster an environment of trust and openness that can stave off a potentially harmful situation. After all, even without the prospect of overemployment, a dissatisfied employee could always move to a competitor or start their own competing business. A non-competion clause and a strong relationship between employer and employee can help prevent either case.
For jobs that require a remote employee to handle highly sensitive information, however, legal protection may not be enough. In such cases, employers should consult with IT security experts on the best way to secure work-related information and prevent work computers from being misused.
Should employees consider overemployment?
Workers considering becoming overemployed should ask themselves some important questions before making the decision: Will overemployment represent a breach of contract and result in legal ramifications? Is taking on this second job going to result in unethical or dangerous behavior on my part, or open up the possibility for such? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then overemployment should not be pursued.
Beyond legal and ethical issues, the potential overemployed worker should ask themselves whether they can take the physical and mental strain of a vastly increased workload. Burnout and fatigue are real and can have long-term consequences. Keep in mind that, until recently, the term ‘overemployed’ meant the same thing as ‘overworked‘.
If the motivation is primarily to earn more money, other solutions could exist. They could look for a new, higher-paid job, for instance. If they wish to build their own business, they may be able to hire out some of the work and reduce the strain and extra workload on themselves.
Overemployment — choose carefully
There is no simple answer to the employee question: Should I become overemployed? And there is no straightforward way that a company can eliminate the risk of overemployment. However, it is all but inevitable that in a remote-first world, some employees will take on more than one job. If an employer wants to prevent this, they need to carefully consider what steps they should take to mitigate overemployment risks.
You should not take two jobs if it will result in a breach of contract or unethical behavior. Beyond this, be sure that overemployment will not result in burnout or a lapse in quality of work.
Overemployment is legal unless it causes a clear breach of contract between employee and employer.