By Zahara Kanchwalla
You’re an IT programmer by day, and a stand-up comedian by night. You’re a marketer at a big firm and a momfluencer on social media. It’s good to have diverse interests and income streams. But where does one draw a line? Last week, a tweet by Rishad Premji, Chairman of one of India’s largest IT services companies, Wipro, brought the spotlight on this issue when he called moonlighting “cheating.” This was soon after Swiggy, India’s largest food delivery startup, announced a moonlighting policy that allowed employees to work on side projects provided the work did not conflict with the company.
So, what exactly defines moonlighting?
Moonlighting means having a second job, typically secretly and at night, in addition to one’s regular employment. The word ‘secretly’ is the key ethical dilemma that one needs to address. Was it disclosed during the interview or is your employer aware of the second job?
Traditionally, employers have prohibited employees from taking up other jobs over concerns of conflicts of interest, performance and misuse of employer’s resources.
COVID-19 lockdowns triggered a change. Employees discovered new hobbies and pursuits that provide an additional source of income and that they could engage in while working from home.
A survey, conducted by Kotak Institutional Equities across the IT/IteS sector found that a staggering 65% of the respondents knew of people pursuing part-time opportunities or moonlighting while working from home.
In fact, there was a case of an employee that was caught working for seven companies at the same time! It was caught by the HR managers of one of the firms, after they found multiple active Provident Fund accounts.
The challenge with moonlighting doesn’t end there. It also has a ripple effect on the return-to-office plans of companies. Only half of the 400 people surveyed in the Kotak survey were open to working from the office more than thrice a week.
So, how does an employee work on side projects that s/he is passionate about? Is it not okay to pursue a hobby? Here are some dos and don’ts that can help:
Do not compromise on integrity
One shouldn’t use company time or resources to moonlight. You might have a side hustle or gig assignment, something you really enjoy working on and an employer project that’s overlapping with that deadline. The temptation might lead you to use company time to complete your moonlighting project. This is nothing but stealing. You’re stealing the success of your employer’s project for the triumph of your side gig. You shouldn’t be calling in sick to work on moonlighting projects. You shouldn’t be claiming to be stuck in traffic and clocking in late because you were up in the night moonlighting. All these are integrity issues.
Don’t burn yourself out
You need to have the energy and the ability to focus perfectly in your day job. You need to have time for your family, social commitments, and other priorities in life. Else, you will be exhausted and burn out trying to make your side hustle work and not be able to do justice to your day job. That’s not good for performance, productivity, or creativity. It’s not good for your mental health either. It’s not good for you, your employer, and your side goals. Don’t let your hustle become a hassle for you or your employer.
Renegotiate your contract
If your company has a contractual or freelance work policy, you should check the terms & conditions and look at renegotiating your employment contract. If you don’t do that, you could land up with legal issues. If you’re starting a new job and already have a side hustle, mention it clearly during the interview. Be clear and make it clear that you aren’t working on gig jobs at work or using work resources.
In conclusion, moonlighting is not an ideal situation. If you want to do multiple assignments, you should look at work models like freelancing, contractual employee roles or part-time work. Taking up a full-time job and then doing another job doesn’t seem to be a great option.
As an industry, we need to take a holistic view of the moonlighting trend. Employers can define policies and allow employees to pursue what they’re passionate about with terms and conditions. Employees must act with integrity in taking the opportunity to pursue their interests but not at the cost of the employer. We should not compromise on our long-term goals for short-term gains – an essential lesson both employees and employers must address while handling the sensitive issue of moonlighting!
(The author is co-founder & CEO of Rite Knowledge Labs. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)