Moonlighting essentially means holding more than one job. One of the first cases of moonlighting in India came to light when HR tracked several active provident fund accounts of a person based in Bengaluru and it was discovered that he held seven jobs. He is not alone. Many technicians in India juggle jobs without the knowledge of their employers.
CNBC-TV18 has spoken to at least three people who work for more than one employer and who have not yet been arrested. “A big reason is the money. In a way, you get double pay doing this,” a Delhi-based IT manager, who requested anonymity, told CNBCTV18.com.
Delhi-based Jatin Singhal, who worked in the hospitality industry, was lucky enough to get clearance from her CEO to take on a second and third job. He was 22 when he started working in Mumbai. “I knew my expenses would be more than I could earn at first. So I made it clear to my bosses that I was doing other work.”
His employers have been accommodating as the industry requires people to work long hours, according to Singhal. Unlike many who struggle to maintain a work-life balance, he said he was happy and could handle anything because he loved his job and enjoyed interacting with new people.
Singhal, now 26, is an entrepreneur and encourages his interns and employees to explore opportunities outside of working hours.
It’s not easy for most others
However, the story is not the same for everyone. Deepak Yadav, based in Bengaluru, has been moonlighting for six years without the knowledge of his employers. Some days he finds it difficult to drag himself to the office because he lacks sleep, there are mood swings and fatigue, so he has to call in sick. Some days he arrives late for the office.
He was recently questioned by his CEO but Yadav chose not to reveal the real details.
Remote work has allowed more people to hold multiple jobs, which many are not allowed under their employment contracts. Deval Singh, vice president and business leader of telecommunications, IT, media and government at Teamlease Services, told CNBC-TV18 that the employee worked with seven different IT companies simultaneously.
“It’s a bit of a scary situation for the tech industry,” Singh said. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, talented technicians have become scarce, which has led to multiple offers to employees, sometimes from companies in several geographical areas.
It’s not just money that drives workers underground. “With this (working two jobs), one could earn extra and prepare for the worst. Right now, the scenario is different, but apart from money, one can also make contacts, and you will never run out of jobs,” explained a Delhi-based technician, mentioned earlier.
How do undeclared workers manage their day?
“If a full-time job is A and the team is 9 to 5, company B’s job is selected around 2 to 10. The ratio is 30:30. Focus 30 minutes on A and less on B, then the next 30 minutes more on B, less on A. This way you show both places that the task is in progress,” explained the technician from Delhi.
On the other hand, Yadav works a 9 to 6 job and turns into a freelance position. He does not participate in meetings with third parties during office hours, but agrees that even if he is tired, he has to work, which affects overall productivity even the next day. That’s why he says his company shouldn’t know.
But Yadav’s motivation goes beyond the extra dollars. He moonlights to make contacts so that when he leaves corporate life, he still has work to keep him going.
These two IT managers have invested in personal laptops to prevent the company’s software and hardware from detecting their black gigs. While the former says he could also do it from his office laptop because he knows the drill and the tricks, Yadav has distinct gadgets.
“Sometimes I also pay for my own software subscription, the reason being company policies. In case they find out about my side work and use company assets, they might sue me” , Yadav said.
But companies are not happy
“It’s very difficult to protect intellectual property when employees work with multiple organizations,” Singh said, adding that companies feel a lot of pressure because it leads to lost productivity and revenue. And moonlighting is one of the biggest reasons companies want employees back in the office.
Ridhi Lamba, human resources generalist, MediaMonks, told CNBC-TV18 that human resources managers, at first, engage in a verbal conversation with undeclared workers and give them a warning. In a second step, they give the person a performance improvement plan to fix the problem within a specified time after which the final decision is made by management.
There could also be legal action, but this differs from company to company and their contracts. In some cases, the candidate may be blacklisted, ruining their reputation in the industry.
Is a salary increase enough?
After confronting an undeclared worker, some companies may offer a monetary raise to retain talent, but others fear that this decision will encourage other employees to follow suit.
“I see a possibility that the part-time concept will become one of the ways to solve this moonlighting problem,” said a Teamlease official. “It also helps keep costs down. Keep in mind that if you mutually agreed on a few hours a day in a week, you will pay them for the amount they worked with you, which determines the cost angle. But of course there has to be clear guidelines to make sure the organization doesn’t take a hit.”