Moonlighting — doing a second job with a full-time job — has been a practice among the lower income strata for years. Drivers, cleaners, maids have augmented incomes within a skill set. Professionally, advertising creatives, journalists, teachers, and doctors have moonlighted over years. It was never open and discussed honestly. Moonlighting is happening in the technology industry due to work from anywhere (WFA) and current salary structures. According to reports, 7.2 per cent of employees were moonlighting in the US in 2018. This topic has three dimensions:

Moral issue: The morally upright opine that it is wrong to take another job when you already have one. Most government employees are not allowed to moonlight anywhere in the world. People also argue that moonlighting when scores of people are unemployed is not the right thing to do for the country. The moral point is about doing the right thing irrespective of contract or legalities.

Legal issue: Contracts and non-competes are two legal clauses at work. Most companies have a contract with employees seeking employee time and effort solely for the company. Some have a clear non-compete clause even when you leave. Non-compete clauses are not applicable in areas like Silicon Valley. So, if the company has a clear contract, then moonlighting is a NO and companies expect approvals beforehand.

Professional issue: Employees argue that low compensation and lack of job security force moonlighting. They feel that companies are economic driven, and morals/legalities don’t count in layoffs. Employees could moonlight with a hobby such as stand-up comedy or work for competitors like some coders do. They argue that The first, leveraging a hobby and anything non-competing should be fine. is the employee argument. Employers argue that employees should be fresh and productive and don’t want them devoting extra time to things that don’t add value to the company. Most companies allow senior managers only one board position outside the company to ensure that the managers’ time and effort is committed to the company.

Work for anyone

The Arab Spring saw democracy in countries where democracy was an illusion. The pandemic and WFA are doing the same to work — challenging the long-held workplace policies and resulting in companies devising fearless, flexible policies to retain employees. Today WFA has also become Work for Anyone. I believe this is here to stay but I would not do it.

There are implications:

1. If a company allows moonlighting and not all employees moonlight, how will a company manage that fissure?

2. The relationship between the individual and company will change forever with moonlighting. What happens to commitment and discretionary effort? This is quiet earning while quiet quitting.

3. Moonlighting will lead to higher service/consultant roles in an organisation. Which roles will be done by own employees, which will be by consultant will be a question. The employee is turning into a mercenary.

4. Moonlighting needs self-disclosure, to the employer and the tax man for legitimacy.

Shiv Shivakumar is Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy & Business Development, Aditya Birla Group.