When Rishad Premji, Executive Chairman of Wipro and a fomer Chairman of IT industry body Nasscom expressed concern on the growing moonlighting trend in the IT industry and called it ‘cheating’, it elicited a range of responses from companies, IT employees and analysts of the sector.

The concept of “moonlighting” essentially connotes employees taking up other ‘side’ jobs in addition to their regular employment. While most companies have legal contracts with their employees insisting that they cannot work for anybody else, the pandemic loosened things up as employees shifted to work from home mode and monitoring them wasn’t easy.

Biggest concerns

Employees essentially took up other jobs either to have an extra source of income or to monetize their passion, learn new skill sets in areas of technical adjacency and improve their expertise. However, companies are concerned about productivity, data breach, and conflict of interest due to moonlighting activities by their employees.

Human resource consultants say that the biggest concern of companies when their employees moonlight in the same industry, surrounds the issue of conflict of interest. 

Vijay Sivaram, CEO, Quess IT Staffing, told BusinessLine, “If the industry faces a situation where a resource is working two similar jobs and possible consuming similar sets of data and operating under two salary statements, that’s definitely a risk for them as a conflict of interest may arise.” 

A recent Kotak Institutional Equities survey of 400 people across the IT/ITES sector, revealed that 65 per cent of the respondents have admitted themselves/know someone who has engaged in moonlighting while working from home.

Organisations would also be concerned regarding the productivity of the employees as working two jobs at a time could result in fatigue and burnout, Sivaram said. While several companies BL approached refused to comment on the record regarding this issue, all of them admit that it is a growing trend and a key issue of concern to them. 

Kamal Karanth, co-founder of Xpheno told BusinessLine, “The concept of moonlighting is being adopted from the USA, which is a highly productive country. India comparatively has lower productivity, hence may still need to watch out on how it evolves in the country..” 

Need for transparency 

As employees get back to offices, at least partially, companies are discovering that their workers were doing other stuff beyond what they had allocated. 

Sivaram said, “Companies should make an attempt to promote transparency and openness. Employees should be made to guarantee that the company’s resources will be respected, and NDAs should be signed to ensure that nothing goes wrong.”

However, a system like this could also be a disadvantage. Karanth opines, “If you put an approval process in place, it becomes a non-starter for the employees. First of all, the manager will be further burdened to evaluate this new gig opportunity and then will have to be continuously suspicious of their employees’ productivity if it goes down due to the moonlighting assignment.”