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The Era of Overemployment: Navigating the Double Job Dilemma

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In an era where workplace norms are rapidly evolving, a new trend has emerged, quietly reshaping the dynamics of the modern workforce: overemployment. This phenomenon, where individuals secretly juggle two full-time jobs, often in the same industry and predominantly remote, challenges traditional concepts of employment. Overemployment is not just about working more hours; it’s a nuanced strategy employed by workers striving for financial stability, skill diversification, and, sometimes, a form of quiet rebellion against the status quo. As this trend gains traction, it raises complex ethical and practical questions for both employees and employers, signaling a significant shift in the landscape of work.

We spoke with leadership expert, author, and speaker Kelly McDonald for her take on this rising reality in the workplace. McDonald says, “We’ve had “The Great Resignation.”  Then “Quiet Quitting.”  Then “Quiet Hiring” and “Career Cushioning.”  New to the scene is “Overemployment.

Overemployment is the latest trend and it’s highly controversial. Overemployment means an employee holds two higher-paying, full-time jobs, concurrently and secretly.  Overemployed people are not working 80 hours a week, rather, they are juggling two full-time jobs, doing twice the amount of work in a typical workday. These jobs are typically remote jobs, so it’s easy for an employee to get away with the “double dipping.”  The jobs are often in the same industry.”

So why do people choose to be overemployed? What are the reasons behind this trend?

McDonald continues, “The primary reason is simple: more money.  A second paycheck helps fight inflation and guards against the financial hardship of being laid off. Many workers are paying off student debt. Others are trying to buy a home in markets with skyrocketing home prices. Overemployment is appealing for those with specific financial goals.”

So it’s the lure of more money behind this trend? 

“There are other reasons,” McDonald says, “including the following:

The opportunity to use all of their skills and/or hone specific skills. A second job may require a different set of skills, and those who are intrigued and enthused by that will dive into overemployment. framed it this way: ‘If you’re trained in software development and a terrific writer, you might consider a content marketing job during your IT gig.’ Expanding one’s skill set can set them up for achieving long-term career goals.

Generous benefits packages. Imagine: two 401(k)s.  Two healthcare packages.  Two vacation/PTO policies.

The opportunity to try new things.  Let’s say an employee works full-time in the marketing department of a large company and also works full-time at their own startup consulting business. In this instance, the overemployed worker may be using the income stability their primary employer provides while trying to build a business for themselves.

As an act of rebellion. Employees continue to report that they are overworked, overwhelmed, burned out, stressed, frustrated – and bored. They feel that, despite their hard work, there’s no guarantee that they’ll get ahead. They may feel taken advantage of, overlooked, or like they are spinning their wheels in a job that won’t yield a promotion or much of a raise. Their response?  To “get back” at their employer, or even “the system” – the work constructs that limit them and foster resentment. Overemployment is a way to say, “take that, bureaucracy!” They feel they can do just enough at two jobs to pull it off – and they do.”

So how do employers feel about the overemployment trend?  

Kelly McDonald adds, “In a nutshell – they hate it. Not only do employers think it’s controversial, they think it’s unethical. It’s not hard to see why. Here are a few of the morality issues of overemployment that employers wrestle with:

Doing two jobs at once. This means that a worker is stealing time from both employers.  If you’re not joining a meeting because you’re on deadline for a project at your other job, you’re ripping off your employer.  They pay you to be on the team and contributing – at all times.  This is why overemployed people keep their second job a secret – they know it’s wrong.

Secrecy leads to lying.  Most overemployed workers lie to their employers, or at a minimum, lie by omission in not being forthright about what they’re doing. Again, they lie or omit the truth because they know it’s wrong.

Utilizing company resources for a different job. If Company A provides you a laptop and a complete remote tech set-up, then Company B doesn’t have to.  In this case, the worker is grifting Company A. 

Productivity takes a hit. Whether it’s missing meetings (because the worker is in a meeting for the other company), logging on later than is expected (because they were doing work for the other employer) or taking days off to work for the other company, an overemployed employee’s focus is divided, just as their time is.  Productivity is affected – how can it not be?

Stressed out workers who are stretched too thin. Work is already stressful enough.  Overemployed workers report more stress, more fatigue, more job dissatisfaction and depression and are more frazzled than those who have just one job. Employers don’t want their workers to feel that way, and of course, those things affect performance.  Stressed out workers don’t just cost companies in loss of productivity – they cost employers in real ongoing mental health issues that affect performance.

So what should employers do to deal with this situation? To address the challenges of overemployment, employers can consider implementing several strategies, including the following:

Enhanced Communication and Transparency: Establish open lines of communication with employees. Encourage them to discuss their workload, career aspirations, and any external commitments they might have. Transparency from both sides can prevent the need for overemployment.

Regular Performance Reviews: Conduct frequent performance evaluations to assess productivity and engagement levels. This can help identify if an employee is struggling to manage their workload, potentially due to overemployment.

Work-Life Balance Initiatives: Promote a healthy work-life balance. If employees feel their current job provides enough flexibility and time for personal activities, they might be less tempted to seek additional employment.

Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Review and adjust compensation and benefits packages to ensure they are competitive. This can help reduce the financial motivation for employees to seek a second job.

Skill Development Opportunities: Offer opportunities for skill development and career advancement within the organization. This can address the desire for personal growth, one of the reasons people choose overemployment.

Revising Remote Work Policies: If applicable, revise remote work policies to ensure they are clear about expectations and permissible activities during work hours.

Encouraging Employee Feedback: Create a platform for employees to voice their concerns and suggestions. Understanding the root causes of why employees might seek overemployment can help in addressing them effectively.

Monitoring Workloads: Ensure that workloads are manageable. Overworking can lead to burnout, pushing employees to seek alternative employment scenarios.

Offering Flexible Work Arrangements: Consider offering flexible hours or part-time positions. This can accommodate those who need or want to work another job, reducing the need for secrecy.

Focus on Employee Well-being: Invest in programs that support mental health and overall well-being. If employees feel cared for, they are more likely to stay committed to their employer.

Clear Policies on Secondary Employment: Have a clear policy regarding secondary employment. Employees should know what is permissible and what the consequences are for not adhering to these policies.

Technology to Detect Overemployment: Employ technology solutions that can help detect patterns indicative of overemployment without infringing on privacy rights. For example, unusual login times or consistent unavailability during work hours.

Building a Trusting Culture: Foster a company culture based on trust and mutual respect. If employees feel valued and trusted, they are more likely to be loyal and transparent.

As the landscape of work continues to evolve, the phenomenon of overemployment presents both challenges and opportunities. For employees, it offers a unique, albeit controversial, pathway to achieve financial goals, expand skill sets, and explore new ventures. Yet, it also brings ethical dilemmas and potential burnout. For employers, understanding this trend is crucial. By fostering open communication, offering competitive benefits, and promoting work-life balance, they can address the root causes of overemployment. Ultimately, this era of overemployment underscores a deeper narrative about our changing work culture – one that demands adaptability, understanding, and a reevaluation of traditional employment models to meet the diverse needs of the modern workforce.

The Era of Overemployment: Navigating the Double Job Dilemma

Photo Credited to Kelly McDonald

Kelly McDonald is an acclaimed speaker who specializes in consumer trends and changing demographics. She is the president of McDonald Marketing and has authored four bestselling books on the customer experience, leadership, and marketing — all from the standpoint of working with people “not like you”.  Her book, How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You has been on two bestseller lists.  



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