Is It Ethical to Be “Overemployed”?

Is It Ethical to Be “Overemployed”

More money, more problems couldn’t be truer when it comes to the overemployed workers. 

According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics of August 2022, more than 7.5 million workers in the U.S. are overemployed, that is, they hold more than one job. With the pandemic leading to an increase in remote working and making people concerned about job safety, it doesn’t take a genius to see why people would choose to work multiple jobs. 

Working more than one job has become so common today that there is an entire community website about the topic called “overemployed.com”. The website contains resources on how to file taxes if you have more than one job and how to keep your employer’s expectations low. While this may give the workers an opportunity to make more money, is it really ethical to have multiple jobs? Let’s delve into the pros and cons of the work trend a little deeper. 

The legality of overemployment 

Naturally, different countries have different rules when it comes to working multiple jobs. Some of the countries that allow workers to hold more than one job include the U.K, the U.S. and India. But even if the country you live in allows you to have more than one job, the legality of overemployment depends on the kind of contracts you have signed with your employers. If your contract explicitly prohibits you from working at multiple places at once, then it obviously isn’t advisable to do so. 

Alternatively, even if there isn’t an explicit ban on holding multiple jobs, you can still land yourself in trouble if—

  • The two jobs have a conflict of interest: So, let’s say you are working with a software developer that makes cloud storage solutions and pick up a second job with its competitor, that would count as a conflict of interest. 
  • You are using the resources of company A to do company B’s work: Companies tend to purchase subscription services for their employees, like a media company may give you access to the Canva Premium. So, if you use the Canva Premium subscription company A got you to work on Company B’s project, it would be grounds for termination. 
  • You are not fulfilling your workplace obligations: If a set number of tasks are expected from you at the end of each week and you are unable to complete them because you have picked up a second job, your employer may not take too kindly to that. 

In favor of overemployement 

If all the legal requirements are met, then working more than one job can actually be really beneficial. It helps you make a lot more money and can actually be a great way to test-drive new careers without having to quit the job you currently have. Overemployement also encourages people to seek fulfillment in other aspects of their lives, like their relationships with friends and family. All in all, the biggest piece of advice the pro-overemployment community will give you is to “quiet quit”. This essentially means to only do as much work as is expected of you in a job role— no less and definitely no more. 

Although overemployment would mean working more hours, in some convoluted way, it can actually prevent burnout. This is because it takes away from the emotional involvement you would have with the workplace by seeing work as just a means to an end. If you use overemployment as a way to test a new career path, it could also give you an opportunity to flex the skills that your current job may not be utilizing, thereby preventing the boredom of doing the same tasks over and over.

The case against overemployment 

While an employee may jump at the opportunity of making more money, employers naturally tend to dislike overemployment. In October this year, the CEO of accounting software company Canopy, Davis Bell, wrote a LinkedIn post about how the company fired two engineers who were working more than one job. He goes on to say that he is surprised about how the media reports stories of overemployement, “I’m usually surprised that they don’t make a bigger deal of the core moral issues at play: “working” two full-time jobs is stealing, and it also involves a great deal of lying and deception,” he explains. 

If you aren’t doing anything illegal, calling overemployment “stealing” (as Bell does) would be a bit of a stretch and that is probably the reason why Bell got backlash over his post. However, in most cases, you would probably have to either outrightly lie or lie by omission to keep your second job, which would tarnish your integrity if you get caught. Some people, employers as well as fellow job-seekers, may even criticize you for hijacking the finite number of job opportunities out there. 

On a personal note, I don’t necessarily believe that there is anything wrong with being overemployed as long as you are doing everything legally and delivering quality work to all your employers. But for those who do see overemployment as a problem, I believe that instead of criticizing those who are taking up multiple jobs, you should question why anyone would feel the need to overwork themselves in the first place. 

Employers who encounter an overemployed worker should take time to assess whether the salary/benefits they are offering are competitive in the current market. They should also check whether employees have the opportunity to grow and develop their careers at the company. Doing this will keep your employees fulfilled and reduce the chances of them taking up multiple jobs. 

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Header image courtesy of Freepik.

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