Did you hear the joke about the surgeon who moonlighted as a stand-up comedian? He left everyone in stitches.
Sometimes I wonder if half our problems would vanish if we only laughed at them harder.
Take the current discourse around moonlighting, for instance. What if someone came to you and said they found a job outside of work that allowed them to use their latent skills and make some extra money on the side, and you just smiled and wished them well?
Would it be so bad if we accepted that our employees are ‘normal’ humans who do not owe us more than the hours they are contractually obligated to spend with us.
Just like quiet quitting, which is a great way to set some personal and professional boundaries, I feel that moonlighting is often not just misunderstood, but dismissed altogether by large tech firms (and accompanied by harsh penalties).
A common trend
In reality, moonlighting is increasingly becoming a common trend and tech companies should lean into it and leverage its benefits rather than entering into a confrontation with highly ambitious and skilled talent or Twitter wars between the leading names of tech corporations in the country.
The current hiring freeze aside, everyone knows that hiring top-tier developers is hard work, and talent shortage is a serious problem. #TheStruggleIsReal. At any given point companies are looking to hire at least three new candidates.
Alienating them by disallowing moonlighting is not a solution. We are not the industry we were a decade or two ago. Gig economy makes it easy for people to work across borders, and work-from-home gives them the extra time to.
A new solution
Here’s a thought: instead of branding this as ‘cheating’ on normal work deliverables, we could embrace the disproportionate advantage of opening up our talent pool to more neuro-diverse and passionate people.
Individuals with high drive and passion do not hesitate to take on multiple challenging opportunities at the same time.
As people managers then, the challenge before us is to create an environment that empowers employees in their creative pursuits while maintaining the same level of commitment and dedication to work, rather than deterring their self expression.
In order to accept these new changes and create spaces that allow employees to explore, companies need to introspect and welcome change through new policies and opportunities.
Instead of ensuring a high level of dependency on ‘one company’ and ‘one salary’, organisations need to be more inclusive of the diverse modes and employment opportunities available to developers.
You cannot negate the post-pandemic fear that employees have about layoffs and pay cuts. With the current talk of a recession, if employees seek to grow their skill base or improve their financial stability by taking on side projects then, personally speaking, I see no ethical reason to not support them in this.
To quote from experience, many employees at HackerEarth have come to me to ask if it’s okay to pick up extra work post hours. We don’t have a formal policy around this, because I would rather sit down and have a conversation with the person about their goals and aspirations and the support they are looking for, instead of just slapping them with a list of dos and don’ts.
The ground rule is to operate from a supportive, safe space, rather than the opposite.
Dose of realism
So far if I’ve sounded like I just came back from utopia, then allow me to add a dose of realism to this conversation.
It isn’t easy to monitor or predict how engaged an employee will be once they start working with other companies. Roadblocks are bound to crop up due to the multiple factors that are at play here.
Workplaces would need to accommodate both GenZ and Alphas and their differing opinions towards moonlighting.
The definitions of ‘diversity and inclusion’ would need to adapt to fit in different working styles, and create common ground for those who moonlight, and those who don’t. And needless to say, as with most issues that challenge the HR community, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this.
Each organisation needs to check in and see if this works for them instead of blindly following dictums.
Understanding workplace trends
Whenever a new trend hits the market, I try to understand the drive for new challenges and purpose that fuels the trend instead of sidelining it. Upon observation, I see a clear trend of employees moving away from solely traditional norms of hiring and employment leaving people managers to figure out if they want to lean into or lean away.
My two cents: as tech companies and developers take on a greater role in the way people engage with brands and services, then workplaces need to change with time.
Trends like moonlighting are a definite indicator of the immense potential of today’s talent pool and the direction organisations need to take to leverage this energy. It was the author Philip K. Dick who said that sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.
In the last two years, we have been asked to let go of many of our ‘normal’ ways of doing things. Perhaps, this aversion to moonlighting is another layer that we need to shed. Call it insanity, but I am all for it.
(The author is the HR director at HackerEarth)