Moonlighting – Fading employee commitment vs Innovation

Category: Company/CXO/Founder – Work culture

How do we define what moonlighting is?

According to the definition, moonlighting is having a second job that you undertake discreetly without alerting your primary employer in your spare time. Free time is defined as time spent outside of office hours, such as at night or on weekends. This includes any other work from which you generate money, such as a job, a small business, or as an grocery shop. It’s all considered a side hustle.

Now, it’s a regular practice for physicians to consult after hours, instructors to coach, consultants and freelancers to work for numerous businesses, and employees to participate in artistic creative forms such as volunteering, music, singing, drama, theatre, social media content production, and so on.

The main problem arises when you are working under two legally binding contracts while also working for your competing firm.

Weighing the pros and cons of this new trend is a phenomenon that’s been practiced by many start-ups to see if this could possibly be a practice that could be allowed in a workplace.

To start with there are different types of moonlighting, such as blue moonlighting, quarter moonlighting, half moonlighting, and full moonlighting.

1. Blue moonlighting is basically the employee trying to get another job but failing at it despite the appraisals from their current organization.

2. Quarter moonlighting is when the employee works post their work hours to earn more income.

3. Half moonlighting is when the employee works in shifts in the office or works half in their office and the other half outside.

4. Full moonlighting is considered illegal if the employee is under a legally binding contract and works full-time on their start-up/business.

For the typical employee, the pandemic has affected almost everything. Working from home was first, then came the Great Resignation and the talent wars, which saw wages skyrocket to unprecedented levels, the problems of hybrid operations, and now, in 2022, layoffs and reductions. For many young employees, the shift in laws and workplace relations has been unprecedented, resulting in a new generation of digital nomads and new discussions, such as the one around moonlighting or just working two jobs these days.

This trend of moonlighting increased post the covid situation since there was a huge job security issue among the employees due to inflation and economic crisis, companies started firing or laying off their employees which also gave birth to the fear of losing jobs or more having a backup job ready in case they lose their permanent one. Post covid also saw a huge rise in freelancers as people who got laid off or fired took up freelancing work with start-ups majorly.

As addressed by the Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Mr. Rajeev Chandrashekar, the effect of curtailing or restricting the employees from not working a second job is curtailing their creativity and these companies are doomed to fail as there will be a good attrition rate in companies. Most of the start-up owners have also comented saying that these new trends are majorly a result of the covid situation or a cascading effect that is leading to one another.

While companies use surveillance software or place restrictions to curb this trend of moonlighting which will help in not losing a lot of productivity, what the employee does during their free time is completely their choice which cannot be denied. Many critics also argue that policies are likely to exacerbate the talent crunch, where the right talent will become even more expensive to recruit.

There is a clear link between the Great Resignation and moonlighting cases. One of the founders of a Bengaluru-based SaaS firm that employs almost 1,000 people in India and the United States mentioned that employees don’t simply resign. They work on their passions and build on their business while they have a steady job and income. He also mentioned that if it wasn’t for moonlighting half of the start-ups in India wouldn’t exist at this time. While we see tech giants like Wipro firing its employees for moonlighting, we also see Swiggy bringing in moonlighting policies and allowing it’s employees to take up gigs or side projects.

This being said, there’s always going to be 2 sides to a story, i.e from the employer’s point of view and the employee’s on this new phenomenon. But we can with a certainity say that the trend of moonlighting is here to stay and what companies can do is structure their contracts in a way that it doesn’t harm their business and also lets the employee have the freedom to take up other gigs or side projects so as to help them pursue their passions, for financial gains or to add to their future business plans. This way the company doesn’t have to deal with problems like low employee productivity or resignations due to stressful policies.

Author: Aishwarya B.

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