Employee moonlighting: Tips for managing employees with multiple jobs

Employee moonlighting sounds as if it involves jumping into a phone booth and putting on a cape to save the day. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t as cool—but can be equally as heroic. 

If you’re managing a team of hourly workers, chances are you have a few employees who moonlight at a different hourly job. It’s also possible that your job is the side gig. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility as a business owner and manager to decide how to best manage your employees. 

In this article, we’re going to break down what employee moonlighting is, the reasons why employees moonlight, and how to best manage your team.

What is employee moonlighting?

Employee moonlighting is when an employee works at more than one job. It most commonly refers to individuals with a primary full-time role and a secondary part-time job. This also includes those who work multiple part-time jobs, or people who work several different freelance jobs at once.

Examples of moonlighting

Employee moonlighting isn’t limited to one specific industry—in fact, moonlighting can take on all shapes and forms.

  • A 9-5 office worker teaching two cycling classes a week before work 
  • A student working part time at two different jobs to help pay for college
  • A teacher running a burgeoning floral business outside of working hours
  • A retail worker picking up different shifts at another business during the holidays
  • A full-time graphic designer offering consulting work on the side
  • A novelist who also writes freelance articles
  • A full-time barista who hand draws chalkboard art for small businesses

Why do employees moonlight?

Employees moonlight for a variety of different reasons. Regardless of your employee’s situation, it’s important to be respectful and supportive of their decisions. Here are a few common reasons why employees moonlight.

1. To earn additional income

According to a study conducted by Primerica, three-quarters of middle-income Americans say their income is falling behind the cost of living. Some of your employees might have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Others might want the additional income to support their financial goals. Whatever the case, it’s important to be considerate of their reasonings for moonlighting.  

2. To challenge themselves

Working another job can provide a way for your employees to push themselves within their careers. Adding an additional job requires time management, learning new skills, and understanding the nuances of a different industry. For some, this challenge helps to satisfy their need for internal growth and learning.

If your employees are using their time at your business to learn new skills, encourage them. Provide them opportunities for them to stretch the new muscles they’re earning. Eventually they’ll be able to put those muscles to work for you. Is one of your baristas working at the art store? See if they’re willing to spruce up the new menus. Retail associate interning at a tech company? Ask if they’re willing to help update your website. 

3. To work on a passion project

Some employees moonlight as a way to work on something that aligns with their passion. While they may be working for you full time, they may go home to work on what they’re really passionate about. Similar to those workers who like to challenge themselves, see if there are any skills that your employees are developing that can also be beneficial for your business. 

The employees with passion projects are often the most driven and hardworking. Find ways to support them—you never know how they can return the favor in the future. 

4. To find fulfillment outside of their work

For some people, their day job is just that—a job. Sometimes adding an additional role helps to fulfill a part of their life that they can’t get within their main role. For example, someone may work a desk job all day and go hours without talking to someone in person. They may pick up a bartending or serving gig because they enjoy connecting with other people and having social interactions. Not every job can fulfill every need, and that’s okay! 

It’s not uncommon for people to turn a hobby into a side gig. Teaching fitness classes, volunteering at an animal shelter, or creating a full pop-up bakery are all ways your employees can find fulfillment outside of their regular day-to-day career.

5. To minimize economic anxiety

Let’s be real—not having a consistent income is a huge source of anxiety for some people. Having multiple jobs ensures that your employee will likely have some form of income if the economy starts to show any volatility. If you look at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the most part, you can see that people who hold multiple jobs remain relatively consistent through times of economic anxiety. 

Is employee moonlighting legal?

Working two jobs sounds exhausting—there has to be some kind of labor law against this, right? Short answer: it depends.

If you’re employing somebody part time, they’re legally able to work more than one job. Whatever time they have outside of their working hours is up to them. As long as employees are performing their role effectively and their second job doesn’t present any conflict of interest, employers don’t have a say on whether their employee can work two jobs.

If you’re looking to protect your business from potential security issues or conflict of interest, there are a couple of ways you can do this. Those two options are with a noncompete agreement or with a moonlighting policy.

What is a noncompete agreement?

A noncompete agreement is a legal agreement that specifies a length of time in which an employee is unable to work for other competitors. This could be during the duration of their employment and extend to a certain time after they leave a business. Noncompete agreements are often signed when a person accepts or leaves a role.

Businesses often use noncompete agreements to protect their intellectual property or any classified information that’s unique to their business operations. Noncompete agreements prevent individuals from working for competitors, starting a competing business, or poaching other employees. They can extend into a specific geographic region and for a specific period of time. 

Noncompete agreements aren’t commonly used for hourly employees. These agreements are often for large corporations, or individuals who have unique business knowledge, such as a CEO or a lead analyst. The goal of a noncompete agreement is to prevent individuals from taking the information they learn from one business to use it for the benefit of another. 

What is a moonlighting policy?

A moonlighting policy is a specific policy for a business that outlines what is and isn’t allowed in regards to moonlighting. Moonlighting policies will often include:

    • Conflict of interest clause: Similar to a noncompete agreement, this prevents an employee from working somewhere that may put your business in a compromising situation. This isn’t commonly used for hourly workers unless they’re handling sensitive business data. 
    • Performance clause: This section specifies that an employee’s additional employment isn’t an acceptable excuse for a decrease in performance. Should an employee’s performance start to waiver, a business has the right to discipline the employee. 
    • Paid sick leave clause: This clause prevents employees from using their paid sick leave from your job to perform work at a different job.
    • Disclosure clause: If you want to require your employees to tell you that they work another job, you can do that by adding a disclosure clause within your policy. 

Adding these policies into your employee handbook helps protect both your business and your employees. As a business owner, it’s up to you to figure out what parts of moonlighting affect your business the most. If you’re worried about employee performance, be sure to include a performance clause within your policy. Worried about other competitors? The conflict of interest clause can protect you.

Employee moonlighting statistics (2023)

According to a recent study, approximately 16 million Americans work more than one job. That’s about 10% of the American workforce. Knowing this information, it’s very likely that you’ll hire an hourly employee that already has another job. Here are a few other statistics regarding employee moonlighting that are important to consider as a manager of hourly employees.

Employees who hold two jobs perform the same as employees who only have one

In an examination for the Journal of Business and Psychology, researchers found that employees who work two jobs don’t necessarily prioritize one job over the other. In fact, these employees performed just as well as the employees with only one role.

As always, situations may vary. If you have an employee who needs to make deliveries early in the morning, maybe don’t schedule them to make deliveries after a late night of bartending. At the end of the day, if your employees are doing great work, there’s no reason to worry about them holding a second job.

Employees who have a primary full-time job, and secondary part-time job are the most common

Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states the most common type of employee moonlighting you’ll see are employees with one full-time job, and a secondary part-time job. This is important to know, especially if you’re considering hiring multiple employees who already have full-time jobs. Coordinate with your employees who work full time so you can best schedule them in a way that fits both of your needs. Use an auto-scheduling tool to help make scheduling shifts simple, and have a solid shift swapping policy in place. Plus, you can templatize your schedules so you can easily transpose one week’s schedule to the next.

Common industries with moonlighting employees

Some industries support the ability to accommodate moonlighting employees more than others. Consider that employees who are more likely to work two jobs are hourly workers who have low income levels, or hold multiple part-time jobs. Industries that are more likely to have hourly workers are more likely to have employees who moonlight. 

Based on information from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics, these are the top industries moonlighting employees are most likely to work in as their secondary role:

  • Healthcare and social assistance (16.8%)
  • Accommodation and food services (16.7%)
  • Retail trade (14.5%)
  • Administrative support (10.8%)

There’s an ongoing ethical debate surrounding moonlighting

There’s a larger cultural conversation surrounding the ethics of moonlighting. Is working for two companies ethical? Is hiding that you’re working for another employer wrong? This conversation is happening largely within the tech community, but the messaging surrounding each side of the argument is relevant to hourly workers as well.

Is it okay for hourly workers to hide their secondary employment from another employer? There’s no law against it and there’s really nothing employers can do to make employees disclose their employment status at other companies. The fact of the matter is that hourly employees may not disclose their employment status for fear of retaliation in the form of less hours, less desirable shifts, or being passed up for promotions. It’s not uncommon for employees to hide their secondary employment for this reason. 

Types of moonlighting 

Moonlighting can come in different varieties, and it’s up to you to determine which kinds of employee moonlighting you’re willing to accept. Understanding the different types of moonlighting can help to prevent major issues from cropping up in your business. 

Blue moonlighting

Blue moonlighting is when an employee works two different jobs but is unable to succeed in either position. This type of moonlighting is one that can cause the most issues at your business. Your employee’s performance may slip for a variety of reasons. Most likely, they’re unable to perform well because they’re tired from working their previous job, making careless mistakes, or mixing up processes. Ultimately, it’s up to you as a manager to decide what course of action you’d want to take with this employee.

Quarter moonlighting

This is when your employee spends only a portion of their time at their secondary job. Most often, this is only two to four hours out of their day and only happens occasionally during the week. Most commonly, this is seen with full-time employees taking separate jobs that relate to their hobbies. For example, someone with a full-time job may go and teach yoga classes at their community center two days a week. This doesn’t detract from their main role, and this only takes up a small portion of their free time.

Half moonlighting

Half moonlighting is when an employee spends more than half of their time than necessary on their secondary role, which detracts from their main role. They may be excelling in their secondary role, but performing poorly in their main role.

Finding this balance with your employee is tough. If you’re the secondary role, this could be good news for you—but is it ethical for you knowing that your employee isn’t doing well at their main role? At the end of the day, you can only control your employee’s performance at your business. Anything beyond that is out of your control. 

Full moonlighting

Full moonlighting is when an employee is successfully efficient in two separate jobs, without any negative consequences on either side. For both moonlighting employees and managers, this is the end goal. The best way to achieve this is to provide your employee with the support and flexibility they need so they have the space to grow in either role. 

Effects of employee moonlighting

Moonlighting employees can make an impact on your business—both good and bad. Many managers try their best to avoid their employees from moonlighting, just because of the complications it can cause their business. But when properly managed, the positive effects greatly outweigh the negatives.

Negative effects of employee moonlighting

  • Decrease in employee productivity. This is the most common argument against employee moonlighting. Employers are often worried that employees will come into work too tired or not attentive enough to focus on the job at hand. 
  • Lack of employee availability. If your moonlighting employee is working another job, that means that their availability isn’t as open as it could be. If you employ somebody, there’s nothing you can do to control how they spend their time outside of working hours. This includes forcing specific availability onto your part-time employees. 
  • Potential conflicts of interest. If an employee doesn’t disclose if they’re working for a competitor, security could become an issue. This is unlikely to happen for employees at the hourly level, unless they’re working with sensitive documentation.

Positive effects of employee moonlighting

  • Psychological safety at work. When you provide a safe space for your employees to be open about their life, they’re more willing to bring their whole selves to work. You want your employees to be happy and content. The happier they are at work, the more likely it is that they’ll stay.   
  • Ability to bring new skills to work. Your employee’s other job is not your competition—in fact, they’re an asset for you. What skills is your employee learning at their other job that you can use to help your business? Consider discussing those options with your employee so your business can also grow with those skills.
  • Loyal employees. Your employees are more likely to favor their employer who is understanding, flexible, and is on their side when it comes to employment. Respecting and trusting your employees will forge lifelong personal connections and a loyalty to your business.

6 tips to effectively manage moonlighting employees 

Sometimes creating a full schedule while navigating different employee’s availability feels impossible. Balancing someone who works during the day, students with erratic schedules, and employees with inconsistent availability is a lot like putting together puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit.

The good news? You can help to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Here are a few tips you can use to help you manage moonlighting employees.

1. Implement a moonlighting policy 

Implementing a moonlighting policy is the best way to protect both your employee and your business from potential risk. Establishing a policy creates specific boundaries around what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to moonlighting. 

A moonlighting policy can protect your business from fraudulent sick pay, and protect your employees from potential retaliation. These policies are safeguards for both parties, and should be added to an employee handbook so your entire team is aware.

2. Provide a safe space for open communication

Hourly employees are often unwilling to disclose whether or not they have a second job. It’s not unusual, given that hourly employees are often retaliated against in the form of a decrease in hours. This retaliation is frustrating and creates a hostile work environment for everyone.

Instead, be open and flexible with your employees when it comes to scheduling. Communicate openly with them regarding their availability, and ask for what their ideal schedule looks like. There’s no way you can guarantee those hours they request, but making an effort to try is better than minimizing the hours they work. Don’t force them to tell you whether or not they have another job. Instead, take their availability at face value and respecting it is the best course of action.

Establishing trust is a two-way street—if you trust your employee that they’ll be able to handle their responsibilities, they’ll trust that you have their best interests at heart.

3. Offer ways to create a flexible schedule

In addition to communicating openly with your employees regarding their availability, offer ways for your employees to help customize their schedule when needed. Give them the ability to to swap shifts with their coworkers and submit time-off requests ahead of time.

Offer team communication tools that allow your employees to connect. Giving them the freedom to communicate with each other and edit their schedules independently means that you don’t have to lift a finger at all.

4. Track employee performance

Take time to regularly monitor your team’s performance. Is anybody consistently showing up late? Are there mistakes happening on certain shifts over others? Keeping an eye on regular attendance can help prevent small situations from turning into huge problems.

If you find that one of your employees is starting to slip in terms of performance, ask them what you can do as a manager to help. Support them in the form of additional training or maybe a slightly longer break if you know they’re working double that day. A little bit of empathy goes a long way.

5. Offer great employee benefits

If you know employees are working an additional job due to financial reasons, maybe there’s ways you can help as an employer. Offering your employees additional benefits, such as opportunities for overtime, employee assistance programs, or overall paying a slightly above average wage can go a long way.

Your employees need to pay bills. You need your employees to help run your business. Happy employees make happy customers. Providing good benefits, stable work, and a healthy work environment attracts and retains hard working employees. If you foster a healthy working environment that pays well, your employees won’t need to split their time with another job.

6. Consistently provide schedules in advanced

The earlier you provide your hourly employees with a schedule, the better they’re able to plan their time. It’s easier to prioritize working at your business if they know their shifts are consistent and notified far enough in advance. Even if they aren’t able to work one of the shifts assigned, they have time to communicate with their other coworkers to swap in advance.

Providing schedules early helps to avoid situations where you may have to scramble to get a team ready for the next day. Your employees don’t want to be called into work the night before—and it’s unlikely that they’ll even be able to if you ask them that late. 

Employee moonlighting FAQ

What is employee moonlighting?

Employee moonlighting is when an employee holds two different jobs. While it commonly refers to an employee who works one full-time job and one part-time job, it can also refer to people who work multiple jobs part time.

Why do employees moonlight?

There are a variety of reasons why someone chooses to work a second job. The most common reason is for financial reasons. Some other people may choose to work a second job because they want to expand into new skills, branch into a new industry, or to find a source of fulfillment outside of their main role.

Is employee moonlighting legal?

Yes! If your hourly employees work part time, they’re legally allowed to do whatever they wish with their time outside of working for your business. It’s important to be supportive of your employees who work secondary jobs. If you’re looking to retain employees and make your business a priority, consider offering above average pay, employee assistance programs, and other employee perks.

Can a company prohibit employees from moonlighting?

It depends. You cannot require part-time employees to maintain open availability for your business outside of their assigned schedule. What they do with their time outside of working for you is for them. If you’re looking to protect your business from potential competition, you can implement a moonlighting policy that dictates what your employee is or isn’t allowed to do when it comes to working two jobs.

How can businesses best manage moonlighting employees?

Businesses can best manage moonlighting employees by maintaining open communication, offering flexible schedules, and supporting the employees both emotionally and financially. Managing the schedules of multiple moonlighting employees can be challenging, but the benefits of retaining your employees greatly outweigh the costs.

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