A paradigm shift: How the tides of ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘moonlighting’ are changing the work landscape | The Financial Express

A paradigm shift: How the tides of ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘moonlighting’ are changing the work landscape

The end goal of both the employers and employees is the same – growth. And the key to growth is held by transparency.

A paradigm shift: How the tides of ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘moonlighting’ are changing the work landscape
Employee engagement needs to be defined and boosted and companies need to take an involvement in the personal and professional growth of their employees. (File photo)

By Siddharth Chandrashekhar

We’ve evolved far too much to deny the cyclical nature and patterns we see in the world. Antiquated trends fall back into vogue, bygone concepts find revival and sometimes, previously known phenomena become amplified and gain momentum in the age of social media. 

One such concept, ‘Quiet Quitting’ or ‘soft quitting’, which refers to doing the absolute bare minimum in one’s job, recently emerged as a trend on social media. Despite what many might believe, the concept is nowhere close to avant-garde and has been around longer than TikTok and Gen-Z would have you believe. 

Another phenomenon disrupting the work landscape today is ‘Moonlighting’. This term dates back to the 1950s and owes its origin to the notion of working by the light of the moon but today, moonlighting refers to when an employee takes on additional job(s) in addition to their primary employment.

Instances of both these ‘trends’ have been making the rounds as companies face employees engaging in either one or the other. But what are the factors leading this paradigm shift and causing an upsurge in quiet quitting and moonlighting?

Figuring out the ‘why’

Quiet quitting as a phenomenon might seem inherently unfair to the employer, but it reflects faulty resource management. A Pew Research Center survey indicates that some of the main reasons for quitting include low pay, lack of opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected at work, childcare issues, lack of flexible hours and not having good benefits. According to the 2022 Wellness at Work study, 53 percent of employees say they feel burnt out from work and 52 percent rate their work-life balance as poor.

In the face of these challenges, employees stop responding to the subtle demands of the company to go above and beyond as they cannot align their professional growth with their personal growth. 

Also read: Moonlighting: Things to keep in mind while doing a gig for extra income

According to the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), IT companies in India employ about 5 million people and experts believe at least 50,000 IT sector workers have side hustles. But it is not only to earn additional remuneration. Employees have started resorting to a second job when they feel insecure about the status of their primary one. With mass layoffs a reality, the pressure to perform and go beyond regular working hours has increased. But employers are far from unanimous on the discussion.

While employees owe a moral and legal responsibility to notify the employer of any activity that falls under the ambit of training being provided by them, certain companies permit and encourage their employees to moonlight and even have policies for the same in place. On the other hand, some companies prohibit moonlighting as an absolute and have stringent policies to deal with employees that are found guilty of the same. 

A question that begets asking here is – are there any real or legal implications to these phenomena? 

All actions have consequences, or do they?

If an employee is performing all tasks as per their role, can they be faulted legally? The short answer is no. This may not be a conundrum for most companies but in a highly competitive market, a workforce that is willing to go the extra mile is a critical advantage.

Termination or any kind of legal action in the case of quiet quitting should be an absolute last resort as this would mean that all attempts at reconciliation have failed. Instead, early signs of quiet quitting must be identified and redressed. McKinsey research shows that employees are more likely to stay at a workplace that offers defined career paths, development opportunities and a strong company culture.

In the case of moonlighting, employers need to first assess for themselves if there is a loss of company time and resources or if any detriment has occurred due to the employee moonlighting. 

Also read: How to go about moonlighting?

If the answer to the above is in the affirmative, the company can also seek liquidated or unliquidated damages in addition to termination as a remedy from an employee in case of losses, however, the errant employees must be presented with the evidence found against them and given an opportunity to defend themselves. 

This not only is in consonance with the principles of natural justice but will also ensure that an innocent employee is not framed or terminated unjustifiably.

Integrating the new with the old

The end goal of both the employers and employees is the same – growth. And the key to growth is held by transparency. Employee engagement needs to be defined and boosted and companies need to take an involvement in the personal and professional growth of their employees. 

Prioritizing mental health and defining achievable growth opportunities can help the employee and company to figure out if they’re a good match for each other.

As for moonlighting, a safeguard to preserve transparency on both sides is always an advantage. Having non-compete clauses in employment contracts, a bar on dual/multiple employment with Conflict of Interest embedded into it can pave the way for a positive work environment.

Swimming against the tide is rarely a good idea but neither is getting carried away with the current. That is precisely why find we need to find an equilibrium!

(The author is an advocate and panel counsel, CBIC. Views expressed are personal and not that of financialexpress.com.)

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First published on: 27-11-2022 at 18:45 IST