We live in an economy of gigs and part-time side hustles: More than 44 million Americans have some form of income outside of their full-time job. This extra work can range from small-scale projects like selling used clothes online to larger operations like setting up an online shop for a new product.
So, where should small businesses draw the line? How do you create a fair second job policy?
Trends in the Side Hustle Economy
Side gigs aren’t just going to go away, which means smart employers will figure out how to embrace them while still putting the business first. Side hustles can be on-and-off gigs, but for some people, it’s a lot more serious. Some may build an entire business around a product or service that requires customer service, production and marketing.
Some people take on these gigs just to have some extra disposable income for leisure activities. About 2 in 3 side hustlers say they took the job to have more spending money, while more than 56% did it to increase their savings. Another 46% said they took on additional work to pay off debt. Others simply crave greater challenges and opportunities than their full-time work provides.
Side Hustles Can Be Distracting, but They Can Also Help
Side hustles can sometimes take an employee’s attention away from their full-time job. In fact, 1 in 5 people who work side gigs say they sometimes work on them while at their primary job. Signs that an employee might be distracted by a side gig include dedicating more time to personal phone calls and texts on the job or leaving for unexpected breaks during the day. Employees might miss deadlines or appear more fatigued at work if they’re missing sleep for a side gig. They may also be tempted to get distracted at work by answering emails or checking their websites. If an employee is selling a product, for example, they might start handling customer service requests while on the job.
But employees’ side gigs aren’t always bad for business. In some cases, side hustles might actually help employees be more productive. With a little extra money, they’ll feel more financially secure — considering financial stress can be a huge distraction at work, this extra security could improve their focus. Side hustles can also help them develop new skills and ideas that may spill over into a primary job.
Should You Have a Second Job Policy?
Gone are the days when companies could get away with having a blanket “no moonlighting” policy. You can’t stop the side gig economy completely, so a ban doesn’t work. What you want to do instead is embrace it wisely. Consider adding policies to your employee handbook that specifically address second jobs. For example, conflict of interest and non-compete policies ensure employees’ side jobs won’t directly compete with your business. For example, a therapist who works full-time probably wouldn’t be free to run a private practice simultaneously, but they could probably have a side gig as a Lyft driver if they wanted. It’s generally a smart move to allow side gigs, but with the understanding that employees must report all contract work to management for the sake of transparency.
Of course, you’ll also want to establish confidentiality and nondisclosure policies, although that should be a standard practice whether or not an employee has a side gig. Decide whether you’re OK with employees using their work computers for personal use. In general, a good policy might stipulate that side work is OK, but it shouldn’t interrupt regular work, impede deadlines or distract other employees from their jobs.
The bottom line is that, while part-time side hustles can be distracting, they can help your employees, too. If you find that an employee is more passionate about their side gig than their position at your company, this could open the door for an engaging conversation. Is there another place at work where your employee might be better suited and more excited, based on their side interests? Sometimes moonlighting can illuminate an employees’ hidden strengths, helping them be an overall better asset for your company — or it might reveal a need for better bonuses and commissions at work. However you approach the subject, make sure you have a clear second job policy in place and encourage transparent, honest discussions with your staff.
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