- The rise of remote work has facilitated overemployment – employees who work more than one job, often without their employers’ awareness.
- Employees seek additional jobs due to inflation, the rising cost of living, job insecurity, and a desire for financial freedom and security.
- Overemployment affects employers because moonlighting employees may have reduced productivity, availability and performance.
- This article is for employers seeking to identify and tackle the issue of overemployed employees.
The pandemic proved that remote work is feasible for many industries. Remote and hybrid positions are now a mainstay of modern working life, with big companies like Microsoft and Spotify and small businesses adopting permanent remote and hybrid work arrangements.
However, remote work’s freedom and looser structure has led to a phenomenon called “overemployment,” where workers hold multiple positions simultaneously. We’ll examine the overemployment trend and its effects and share how employers can reduce the chances of their teams working multiple jobs.
What is overemployment?
Overemployment is having two or more remote jobs simultaneously. And it’s a growing trend: According to a ResumeBuilder survey, 79 percent of remote workers have held more than two jobs simultaneously in the last year – and 36 percent have at least two full-time remote jobs.
Overemployment differs from side hustles, odd jobs and the gig economy, which refers to income-earning activities outside a traditional long-term employer-employee relationship. In contrast, overemployed workers put in up to 40-plus hours weekly at two or more jobs at the same time.
How is overemployment possible?
Remote work is fueling the overemployment trend. While working two full-time jobs would be challenging to impossible in an office environment, employees can easily monitor two company Slack channels and email accounts while balancing the day-to-day requirements of two positions.
Working from home wasn’t invented when COVID-19 hit. In fact, telework has been around since the dawn of the 21st century. However, the trend boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when, according to Pew Research, 71 percent of U.S. employees were mandated to work remotely as a health precaution.
According to the FlexJobs Career Pulse survey, around 66 percent of U.S. employees still work remotely part time even after pandemic restrictions have eased and more companies operate normally. Employees are drawn to remote work’s flexibility and are in no hurry to relinquish it. According to Future Forum, 76 percent of employees prefer the flexibility of hybrid work.
Some believe office work is going the way of the dinosaurs. Many businesses have a “new normal” that includes hybrid and work-from-home setups instead of a traditional office environment.
Why are employees working multiple jobs?
Several factors contribute to the decision to work multiple jobs. For some, economic need necessitates overemployment; others want job security and financial freedom.
1. Inflation and cost-of-living increases necessitate overemployment.
According to Statista, inflation in the United States has been prevalent since 2020. While the consumer price index eased at the beginning of 2023, inflation in the U.S. remains high.
Additionally, according to JPMorgan Chase, mid-income households’ purchasing power has been deteriorating since 2019. This means that the same amount of income might not go as far as it did previously.
The combined effects of inflation and the high cost of living have prompted people to hold multiple jobs to make ends meet. This is especially true for those who live in cities with a high cost of living, such as Los Angeles and Miami.
2. Job security fears fuel overemployment.
Mass layoffs have been a significant issue in the U.S. economy since the start of 2020. In 2023, layoffs affected the tech industry particularly, and many more companies and industries will likely experience layoffs and budget cuts.
Instead of relying on a single job for their income, some employees hold multiple jobs simultaneously to reduce the financial blow if one employer lets them go. They may be onto something: ResumeBuilder’s survey found that around 19 percent of laid-off tech workers were not strongly affected by the job loss because they had other jobs to fall back on.
The jobs most at risk of layoffs include product management, quality assurance, marketing, finance and information technology.
3. A desire for financial freedom and security prompts overemployment.
ResumeBuilder’s survey revealed that 52 percent of overemployed workers earn more than $100,000 annually (total of all full- and part-time jobs). This is more than the average annual salary of U.S. employees in 2022, which was around $56,420, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Overemployment allows individuals to double or even triple their income, enabling them to save more for long-term financial goals. This also gives them more financial security if they lose a job.
How does overemployment affect employers?
Overemployment may bring benefits to workers. However, it can adversely affect employers trying to manage a remote workforce. Consider the following ways overemployment hurts businesses.
1. Overemployment can decrease productivity and performance.
Staying focused on tasks and devoting sufficient time to work can be challenging when employees must split their attention between multiple jobs. While working at home can increase productivity, overworking from home can erode performance and lower productivity, causing problems for the organization.
2. Overemployment may affect employee availability.
Employees with multiple sources of income might find themselves in a dilemma when two jobs require their attention simultaneously. A split focus can lead to employees missing deadlines or skipping shifts.
However, ResumeBuilder found that among those who work multiple jobs, only 5 percent reported working more than 80 hours a week (for all full- and part-time jobs); 25 percent said they work about 30 to 40 hours a week.
The survey indicates that moonlighting workers could still manage their time and workload effectively as long as they set their boundaries and prioritize the right tasks.
Free remote working tools like Basecamp, Asana and Toggl can help you stay on task and work efficiently from home.
3. Overemployment may violate corporate policies.
Employees working multiple jobs simultaneously could be in violation of corporate policies. For example, if a company has a noncompete clause, an employee working with a competitor could expose the employer to legal risks.
Similarly, some companies may forbid employees from working as independent contractors. In such cases, if an employee is found to be providing such services while with the company, they breach their contract.
In fact, in 2022, credit reporting agency Equifax fired 24 remote employees who secretly held dual full-time employment. The termination was because their second job conflicted with their role, a violation of the company code of conduct.
Is it illegal to work multiple jobs in the U.S.?
It is not illegal in the U.S. to work multiple jobs. At-will employment is the de facto standard in the U.S., meaning employers and employees are not bound by a contract.
It’s up to an employer’s discretion whether or not they allow employees to work multiple jobs. Generally speaking, employers are more likely to accept employees working multiple jobs if the moonlighting job doesn’t conflict with company policies or if the employee isn’t taking away time and resources from their primary job.
However, at-will employment also means an employer can terminate a worker without notice or cause. This means employees may risk losing their job if an employer finds they’re working multiple jobs.
Firing a remote employee has unique challenges. It’s crucial to work with IT to shut down the employee’s online access to applications, programs, databases and communication channels.
How can employers prevent overemployment?
While employers cannot completely prevent overemployment, they can take steps to reduce the chances of their workers juggling multiple jobs.
- Assess your team’s salary and benefits. Evaluate whether your employee benefits plan and salaries are competitive compared with the local market. If there is a large gap, consider offering salary raises or other incentives to discourage employees from seeking supplemental income elsewhere.
- Revise employment agreements. Employers can revise their employment contracts to include clauses that restrict overemployment. For example, add non-compete clauses or terms that forbid holding additional full-time employment.
- Create clear career development roadmaps. Employers should help employees navigate their career paths by outlining career progression within the organization. This will help employees plan long-term career goals and make informed decisions instead of chasing short-term gains.
- Monitor employee performance. Employers should evaluate and track employee performance and attendance. If an employee struggles with their workload or is regularly late for work, this could indicate they’re taking on too much.
- Consider employee monitoring software. Consider using employee monitoring software to track employees’ activities during work hours. The best employee monitoring platforms can help employers identify patterns that indicate an employee is working multiple jobs. However, employees tend to dislike monitoring programs, and this may affect worker satisfaction and employee retention.
- Initiate employee engagement activities. Consider implementing team-building activities, recognition programs, or anything that can help foster a positive and supportive company culture. The more engaged and satisfied employees are, the less likely they’ll seek additional employment.
To discern if employees are faking being active online, check their chat platform availability, see how long it takes to complete tasks and note if they seem to work only when you’re monitoring.
Mitigate overemployment in your business
Overemployment has become a growing concern for many employers, as it can have severe implications on an employee’s productivity and performance and the company’s bottom line.
Employers should take proactive steps to reduce the risks associated with overemployment. Overall, employers should strive to create an environment where employees feel valued and fairly compensated so they don’t have to rely on additional income sources.