The pandemic altered some employment norms.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered a variety of employment norms. There is considerable debate about which changes are transient and which are more durable, particularly given various sustained macroeconomic uncertainties. One of these new practices seems to be for white-collar workers to hold more than one full-time job. With the increased prevalence and general acceptance of remote work arrangements, there are reportedly some employees who attempt to hold two fully-remote jobs simultaneously and collect two salaries in the process. Such reports should cause employers in certain industries to reevaluate various policies and practices.
It is important to note that, unlike some reported changes in employment behavior (such as "quiet quitting"), there is real evidence showing that more people are working two full-time jobs. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2019 there were 307,000 people working multiple full-time jobs, defined as jobs of 35 hours or more per week. In 2022, there were 373,000 people working two full-time jobs, an increase of 22 percent. The numbers are probably underreported, as some people may be working two jobs clandestinely.
By contrast, from 2019 to 2022, there was only a 1 percent increase in the number of people working one full-time job and one part-time job (45,000 workers) and an 11 percent decrease in the number people working two part-time jobs (233,000 workers).
Research on multiple jobholding before the pandemic shows that this behavior is not limited to low-income individuals. According to research from the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals with at least one full-time job and earnings between the 6th and 56th percentiles have a multiple jobholding rate of approximately 10 percent. Meanwhile, individuals earning in the 90th percentile have a multiple jobholding rate of approximately 7 percent. (“Multiple jobs” in the Census Bureau statistics includes both full-time and part-time work.)
Additional data would be helpful, including the income levels and industries of the dual job-holders. Nevertheless, the news stories reporting on this issue tend to identify white-collar service workers as those who are willing and able to take on two full-time jobs. Information technology professionals, whose services are in high demand, are frequently cited. Fully remote working is 60 percent higher in IT than in other fields, according to The Economist.
Employers have a right to be concerned if their employees are working more than one job, but the employees doing so are not necessarily doing anything wrong. Although employees have a duty not to act contrary to the employer’s interests while employed, working two jobs does not automatically violate that duty. On the other hand, it might.
There are steps that you, as an employer, can and should take to ensure that your employees are providing the time and effort expected of them.
Preliminarily, you should review what your existing policies are with regard to employees working multiple jobs, and create or update them as needed. Here are some issues to consider:
- Conflicts of interest. You should generally prohibit employees from working for competitors and clarify the types of employers that you consider to be “competitors.”
- Confidentiality. If you don’t already have them, you must create and enforce robust policies protecting sensitive company information, particularly client/customer data and trade secrets.
- Ethics. You should have a policy that prohibits fraudulent or misleading conduct. With such a policy, if an employee were to misrepresent the work situation, you would be in a strong position to terminate.
- Artificial intelligence. Large language models such as ChatGPT and Bard have already demonstrated a remarkable capacity for answering detailed questions and creating complex text, including computer code. As a result, in certain industries, employees may be able to perform some tasks in much less time than they could before, freeing them up to take on a second job. Thus, you need to assess the degree to which your employees’ tasks can be or are being performed by artificial intelligence.
- Leverage. The U.S. labor market remains historically tight, with an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent and many more job vacancies than job seekers. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, education and health services, and professional and business services, are the industries with the most vacancies, with 1.83 million and 1.72 million respectively. If you are an employer in one of these industries, you have to consider whether a strict policy against working multiple jobs will prevent you from having a sufficient number of qualified employees, even if they are not giving you their full attention.
- Work environment. Obviously, many people seek out multiple jobs for the pay. If you wish to prohibit employees from working multiple jobs, you may have to pay them more to do so. You may also have to consider improving other elements of the work environment, including employees’ opportunities for meaningful input into their work and for career advancement.
- Remote work. The problem of overlapping employment is not possible without remote work, particularly fully remote work. You may want to reconsider your policies as to how frequently employees must work on site or adopt monitoring techniques.
Ultimately, the policies chosen by an employer must be clearly communicated to employees, typically in the form of an employee handbook. Some employees may have contracts in which the employer’s requirements are clearly set forth. Either way, the consequences of any violations of these policies must also be made clear, including the possibility of termination.
Employees working more than one full-time job are unlikely to encompass a large percentage of the working population. But it is clearly happening on some level, especially in certain industries. Thus, it stands to reason to that at least some employers are being harmed by the behavior. By considering the above factors, employers can better ensure that they are their employees’ first priority.