Moonlighting refers to employees working additional jobs or starting their businesses outside their primary employment. It can range from freelancing on the side to running a full-fledged business. Moonlighting can have benefits, but it can also create challenges for employees and their employers. In this article, we will explore employee moonlighting, some examples and reasons, its advantages and disadvantages, how to deal with it, and possible future trends of moonlighting in IT.
What is Employee Moonlighting in IT: Definition, History and Examples
Moonlighting is the act of working a second job or starting a business outside of one’s primary employment. It can include freelance work, consulting, or running a small business.
The contemporary term “moonlighting” comes from “to work by the light of the moon,” which refers to working at night. Some sources discussed “moonlighting” as a verb used to mean “commit crimes at night,” representing members of organized mobs that carried on agrarian outrages during The Land War in Ireland in the late 19th century (source).
In the existing interpretation, this term was first used in the early 20th century to describe people who held a second job while working full-time during the day. It often meant working at night, hence the association with the moon. Over time, the term came to refer to any secondary job, whether at night or during the day.
Moonlighting in the tech industry refers to professionals taking on side gigs or additional projects alongside their main tech jobs. In recent years, this trend has been on the rise as more tech professionals seek supplemental income, new opportunities for skill development, and networking possibilities within the industry.
Some examples of moonlighting in the IT industry might include:
- A software developer who joined a part-time opportunity or started their own software development company while still being employed in a full-time job;
- A software development teacher who tutors students personally on the side;
- A graphic designer who takes on additional projects in their spare time while being employed full-time, etc.
Moonlighting and Dual Employment
Dual employment and moonlighting are related concepts, but they are slightly different.
Moonlighting refers to holding a second job or engaging in additional employment, typically outside one’s primary or full-time job. It usually implies that the person is working extra hours or taking on another job to supplement their income. Moonlighting can be done for various reasons, such as financial need, pursuing a passion, gaining experience, or exploring different career opportunities.
Dual employment, however, refers to an individual holding two or more distinct jobs or positions simultaneously, often within the same organization or company. In dual employment, the person is formally employed in multiple roles and may have separate employment contracts for each position. Dual employment is more structured and typically involves working for the same employer in different capacities.
In summary, moonlighting is a broader term encompassing any additional job or employment while maintaining a primary job. In contrast, dual employment specifically refers to holding multiple formal positions, often within the same organization. Both involve working numerous jobs, but the key difference lies in the formality and context of the additional employment.
Reasons and Advantages for Moonlighting in the IT Industry
Moonlighting is a common practice for many people for various reasons. Those reasons can also be considered as advantages of moonlighting. Let’s consider those coming to our mind as valid.
- Financial stability and income sources diversification – Moonlighting in the tech industry can provide an additional source of income, allowing employees to boost their financial stability, cover rising expenses due to inflation, or even save for early retirement.
- Lack of promotions in the current company – traditionally, growing one’s income through career advancement in the same company might look less attractive than moonlighting, as the latter takes less time to achieve.
- Skill development – Working on tech projects during free time can enhance one’s technical skills and knowledge, providing opportunities for personal and professional growth and allowing individuals to experiment with new technologies in different areas and stay updated with the latest trends.
- Career advancement – Besides skills development, moonlighting in the tech industry can help individuals advance their careers. By gaining additional experience and skills, they may become more competitive for promotions or job opportunities within their current organization or in another tech industry environment.
- Risk mitigation – Layoffs are increasingly prevalent across industries. As a result, employees might question the wisdom of dedicating all their time and effort to just one company, only to have their manager suddenly announce one day that the job no longer exists.
- Entrepreneurial experience – Individuals can gain valuable experience building and managing their ventures by taking on tech-side projects.
- Networking – Moonlighting can lead to establishing valuable connections within the tech industry. It can open doors for IT professionals to meet new people and expand their professional network, leading to future collaborations and career opportunities.
- Passion projects and personal satisfaction – Moonlighting allows individuals to work on projects they are genuinely passionate about outside their regular jobs. It can bring a sense of fulfillment and joy as they can pursue their interests and ideas. It can also make their current job less monotonous and help them stay mentally stimulated.
- Building a portfolio – Moonlighting allows individuals to build a portfolio of tech projects, showcasing their abilities and expertise to potential employers or clients. It can significantly enhance their credibility and increase their chances of landing new opportunities.
The Dark Side: Disadvantages and Risks
While moonlighting can bring numerous benefits and advantages, there are also potential challenges and risks for both parties to consider:
- Decreased Quality of Work – Juggling multiple responsibilities can result in a reduced quality of work in both the primary job and moonlighting activities.
- Potential conflict of interest between primary and secondary employers. There is a risk of conflict of interest when working on side gigs in the same industry. Tech professionals should carefully assess and address potential conflicts to maintain professionalism and integrity.
- Burnouts and extreme workloads – Moonlighting as taking on additional projects can lead to an increased workload and potential burnout. Tech professionals must manage their time effectively and avoid overcommitting to prevent burnout.
- Lack of focus – Moonlighting can distract employees from their primary job, decreasing productivity and performance.
- Negative Impact on Employee’s Health – Constant stress and lack of rest can negatively impact employee’s physical and mental health.
- Legal considerations and contractual obligations – Certain moonlighting activities may violate employment contracts or other internal company policies and result in legal disputes.
- Negative Impact on Relationships – The additional commitments and time constraints of moonlighting can strain relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. When working multiple jobs, IT specialists may have to sacrifice benefits like having less potential vacation time and spending less time with their family members.
- Ethical dilemmas in commitment and loyalty – Moonlighting activities may raise ethical dilemmas, such as conflicts of interest or compromising confidentiality. Let’s consider these aspects in more detail below.
Ethical and Other Considerations
Whether moonlighting is ethical or not depends on various factors and circumstances. Here are some considerations to make before going into moonlighting:
Employer Policies: You must check your employment or B2B contract and company policies regarding moonlighting. Some employers may have strict rules against employees taking on secondary employment. It is made to avoid potential conflicts of interest or the perception that it could impact job performance.
Time Management: Moonlighting should not interfere with your primary job responsibilities or negatively affect your performance. It could be considered unethical if your moonlighting job takes too much time and energy.
Conflicts of Interest: Moonlighting can raise ethical concerns if it creates friction between the primary and secondary jobs. For example, if your secondary job is with a direct competitor of your prior employer, it could be considered unethical. There might be potential data, know-how, or insights leaks from one company to another if the employee works in the same industry or for competitors. Because the employee of the primary company is working for competitors after hours, this employee is helping the competitors increase the business, being more productive, and succeeding.
Non-Compete Agreements: If you have signed a non-compete agreement with a primary employer, moonlighting in a related field or industry might breach that agreement. Moonlighting could be considered unfair competition if an employee’s contract stipulates non-compete restrictions.
Disclosure: Being transparent with your primary employer about your moonlighting activities is generally considered ethical. Open communication can help address any further concerns or conflicts of interest.
Burnout: If moonlighting leads to excessive work hours and burnout, it could be seen as ethically problematic, as it may negatively impact your health and well-being.
Moonlighting itself is not inherently unethical. Still, its ethics depend on how it’s managed and whether it complies with your employment contract and relevant laws. It’s essential to be aware of your employer’s policies, ensure no conflicts of interest, and manage your time effectively. Also, to maintain transparency with your primary employer to ensure that secondary work engagement is ethical.
Managing Employee Moonlighting: How to Deal with Dual Employment
If a company suspects or discovers an employee is moonlighting, handling the situation delicately is essential. Some possible ways to deal with employee moonlighting include the following methods.
Open Communication and Transparency: Open communication between employees and management is crucial. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their secondary part-time activities, startups, and pet projects. Establish clear channels for employees to disclose their secondary employment, making it easier for them to seek guidance or address concerns. Encourage employees to be transparent about the nature and time commitment of their secondary work, helping the company assess potential conflicts of interest and manage workload expectations effectively.
Setting Clear Policies and Guidelines: Develop comprehensive policies and guidelines that align with the company’s values and objectives. These policies should define what is acceptable moonlighting and what isn’t, emphasizing the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest. Be specific about industries or roles that may conflict with the primary job. Ensure these policies are communicated to all employees and easily accessible for reference.
Flexible Work Arrangements: Consider offering flexible work arrangements to accommodate employees’ secondary work commitments. It could include flexible hours or remote work options when feasible. Providing flexibility can help employees balance their primary and secondary roles effectively, reducing the risk of burnout and maintaining job satisfaction. Ensure these arrangements are consistent with company policies and do not compromise the primary job’s quality or deadlines.
Supporting Employee Development within the Organization: Encourage employees to pursue professional development opportunities within the company. By offering competitive compensation, growth prospects, and career advancement, you can encourage employees to focus on their primary roles and see the organization as a place to achieve their career goals. Recognizing and rewarding employee achievements and contributions can improve employees’ satisfaction from the primary workplace. Providing ongoing training, mentorship programs, and opportunities for skill development can keep employees engaged and motivated within the company.
By implementing these strategies, a company can effectively manage moonlighting while fostering a culture of trust, understanding, and mutual benefit. Balancing the needs of employees with the organization’s objectives can lead to a more harmonious work environment and reduce potential conflicts associated with moonlighting.
Future Trends and Implications
Significant trends might reshape the moonlighting landscape in the coming years. Let’s consider possible ones.
Firstly, technological advancements will play a key role in enabling moonlighting. The further rise of various freelance platforms and digital service marketplaces will make it easier for individuals to take on multiple gigs or part-time jobs simultaneously. This digital transformation will allow people to diversify existing and build new income streams.
Secondly, changing attitudes towards work and employment will likely encourage moonlighting. The traditional 9-to-5 job model gives way to a more fluid and entrepreneurial approach to work. Many individuals seek greater autonomy and flexibility in their careers, leading to a willingness to explore moonlighting to pursue personal passions or diversify income.
Lastly, the growing gig economy will continue to impact moonlighting. As more individuals engage in gig or freelance opportunities, the line between traditional employment and moonlighting will blur further. People will seamlessly transition between different work forms to meet their financial and lifestyle needs. Companies and policymakers need to adapt to these evolving trends by reevaluating workplace policies and labor regulations to ensure they accommodate the changing nature of employment and moonlighting in the future.
In conclusion, moonlighting is a phenomenon that has been around for ages. While moonlighting can benefit, it also can bring risks, and companies must understand and manage the practice to minimize potential negative impacts on employee productivity and engagement.
There’s nothing wrong with having a side hustle or taking on a part-time project. It can be beneficial. It is a part of the hustle culture, which people actively follow. The primary employer should avoid impacting other engagements during the employee’s private time. Each person has free will related to using spare time (either weekends, evenings, or early mornings before work) as long as it is ethical behavior and the work hasn’t been done for competitors.
By providing opportunities for professional development and growth, promoting a positive work culture, and encouraging open communication, companies can help prevent employee moonlighting and create a more engaged and motivated workforce.