Friday September 09, 2022

Moonlighting concept is making a comeback, as pursuing it in the modern era is much more convenient than in the past

Moonlighting concept is making a comeback, as pursuing it in the modern era is much more convenient than in the past

Representational image.

Moonlighting, which has nothing to do with moonlight, is the practice of working a second job outside of typical business hours. The concept is making a comeback, as pursuing it in the modern era is much more convenient than in the past. In today’s environment, moonlighting is strongly fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which rallied for an alternative kind of work, the work-from-home (WFH) model, and allowed individuals to have a side hustle while maintaining their primary employment. As a result, people from various sectors, from private practices to top-tier consultants, engage in moonlighting.

Not all countries record moonlighting data, so it wasn’t easy to quantify this type of work in this article. However, if we take the United States (US) as an example, the US Bureau of Labor reported in 2016 that 7.2 million Americans held two jobs. In 2022, according to a US-based talent acquisition consultant estimate, up to 7% of full-time employees moonlight in the US. Hence, a company with 40 employees can expect three or four individuals to do second jobs. Furthermore, there are various motivations for moonlighting, primarily to generate additional income. Employees may choose a second job to supplement their income if they are underpaid in their primary occupations or require another source of income to satisfy their necessities. Another reason could be that employees are unsatisfied with their current job profile, facing a lack of opportunity or career development. Hence, they may pursue a second job to learn extra abilities, skills, or talents to engage in work profiles that will expand their opportunities and growth potential without compromising on financial security.

However, for some, it is not a means of earning extra money or acquiring new skills, instead, it is a backup plan. This may be due to their job insecurity or lessons learned from previous experiences where they risked losing jobs due to tragic circumstances such as COVID-19.  

Moreover, despite the important reasons to pursue extra employment, moonlighting is a contentious issue with ethical, professional, personal, and legal implications.

The question of whether moonlighting is ethical arises when employees do not disclose having two jobs to their primary employer and are inclined to keep them secret at all times. Also, ethics come into play when moonlighting employees sneak out of their primary employer’s workplace early to fulfil a commitment to a second employer. While some explore the ethical aspects of moonlighting, arguments tend to dismiss these concerns because sharing information about out-of-office hours is not enforced and is entirely discretionary.

In addition, moonlighting employees may misuse corporate equipment such as computers, mobile devices, copy machines, software, and other things, which poses further ethical concerns.

While the professional implications include the possibility of disclosing company-related information directly or indirectly, mainly if the second employment was in the same industry as the first, nonetheless, consulting for a direct or indirect competitor may place these employees in a precarious position and create a conflict of interest.  Performance slippage, which could result from burnout, is a further professional repercussion of moonlighting. Combining two occupations necessitates extra hours of labour, which may eventually lead to burnout and harm physical or mental health.

In addition, the employees’ weariness will affect their productivity, attitude, commitment to the job and its obligations, focus, and organizational engagement. This phenomenon was indeed examined by linking it to the Boundaryless Career perspective in a PMC PubMed Central study, which reveals that moonlighting employees with a strong desire to cross boundaries may care less about their group identity at work and refuse to invest extra effort in team-building activities with other colleagues, resulting in lower organizational engagement.

As stated, holding two jobs necessitates additional hours spent away from home, which may come at the expense of personal and well-being time. Thus, moonlighting can result in family strife and a lack of work-life balance that extends beyond the workplace. As many have put it, to date, the legal ramifications of moonlighting remain ambiguous. There is still a murky area, as no legislation or law limits this practice. However, the employment contract could serve as a reference point in this instance. There may be terms in employment contracts prohibiting moonlighting, such as a single-job restriction or a non-compete provision.

Finally, while there is no overarching rule pertaining to moonlighting, a person working two jobs of a similar type may constitute a breach of confidentiality specified in most employment contracts. In this instance, moonlighting could be construed as unethical and violate employment terms.

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