Employee cheating has always been a problem for some remote occupations, like site field professionals where a few sales employees have been found to work for two organizations at the same time, allocating enough sales to each organization to keep both paying. In the Internet age of remote work, this issue has become more challenging for business leaders and more widespread.
Executive coaches, CEOs, and business owners should be aware of a new website called Overemployed.com, that represents itself as a “community that helps professionals earn a double income and achieve financial freedom. Learn to work two remote jobs and invest wisely. No more layoffs.” What they are really doing is teaching employees how to get two-full time jobs, work part-time at each doing a minimally viable level of effort, and double their pay. Does this sound unethical to you?
By the way, cheating on the job is an old school problem that has resurfaced in the COVID-19 environment with the increasing use of work-from-home and remote technology. Years ago when I was in college, I was shocked to find out that one of my peers was actually working for our competitor at the same time he was working for our company; doing the minimal viable amount of work at both jobs, so as not to lose his job and double his pay. This was pre-Internet, required no technology, but rather employers who were blind on how to effectively manage, monitor, track, and incentivize the performance of their employees.
Working from home is new territory for many corporations and employees worldwide. Managers are learning how to manage productivity and employee performance in a new way and employees are learning how to maintain their effectiveness in a new work environment. However, some resourceful remote workers have found what some might call a hole in the accountability system. Some remote workers are now juggling two full-time jobs, without either of their employers’ knowledge. Why are employees doing this and how? How does this affect businesses and how can they respond to this trend increasingly occurring for remote employees?
The Overemployed community has been steadily growing amongst the working from home community. Aside from the Overemployed website, the community hosts its own discord channel where dually employed individuals can share their experiences and advice. Consider the following testimonials from Overemployed’s discord and similar virtual community boards.
Sam: “I used to work for 1 of the FAANGs. Now I am doing 2 fulltime with benefits jobs and 1 fulltime contract job and combined I am putting in less hours than my FAANG job. The key as most of you mentioned, is to only take and keep jobs that take at most 2-3 hours of your day. Otherwise, just drop the job and move on, as I did last year where I left a job after 2 weeks because I had to do about 6 hours a day which was too much for overemployed setup.”
*FAANGs is short for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google
Gale: “Yea, you cannot really get in the mindset of actually caring for the company you are with because you can start to feel that way. It was mentioned here a lot, but the best mindset it that each job is just a paycheck that is all… I know my companies would part with me if there was a financial issue and I would leave them if there was no paycheck coming in, so to me this is all a business transaction and I am just doing what I need for my own business”
Ryan: “I wish I had known about this place several months ago. Ended up getting a better job and just never quitting my first one. Went from a scrum master into a director of engineering role, keeping the old one mostly as a way to hedge my bets in case something went wrong. Let my previous job just keep going because I never really did much over there anyway--ended up having to leave though when they were bringing people back to the office, and I've been looking for ways to get back into dual jobs again ever since.”
Avery: “I currently have 10 fully remote engineering jobs. The bar is so low, oversight is non-existent, and everyone is so forgiving for under performance I can coast about 4-8 weeks before a given job fires me. Currently on a $1.5M run-rate for comp this year. And the interviewing process is so much faster today, companies are desperate, it takes me 2-3hrs of total effort to land a new job with thousands to chose from.”
Reasons that employees give for dual employment
Increased productivity without increased wages
Employees rationalize that the average employee’s productivity has increased, yet compensation has not increased at the same rate. “From 1979 to 2019, net productivity rose 72.2 percent, while the hourly pay of typical workers essentially stagnated—increasing only 17.2 percent over 40 years” (Economic Policy Institute, 2021). Employees are much more productive today than they were in 1979, but employer compensation does not reflect this. It is also worth noting that over half of employers are expecting to “reduce salary increases” and 45% are expecting to completely remove salary pay raises, for their employees in light of the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic (Miller, 2020). These employees who are taking on second full-time jobs feel that they have been shorted by the major corporations that they are employed for. In short, Isaac the creator of Overemployed summarizes the dually employed populations’ perspective when he states that the dually employed community was created “to give the man, aka Corporate America, the middle finger for always trying to screw the little people over.” He believes, that employees with two full-time jobs see this as an opportunity to increase their employment stability in a system they feel does not have their best interests in mind.
Employees rationalize that juggling two jobs is giving them the opportunity to double their income without having to get additional training or education. Overemployed, a website that advocates dual employment, states that dual employment can help remote workers “achieve financial freedom.” Having two forms of income can help employees save for emergencies, pay off student loans, pay off credit card debt, pay off mortgages, or develop financial investment habits. The average American household debt has been steadily increasing since 2016. In 2020 the average debt per household was $145,000 (Albright, 2020). Pair this with the loss of income faced by many during the COVID-19 pandemic and you have a community of employees who now wish for greater financial stability for themselves and their families.
“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse.” - Simon Sinek
Decreased trust between employees and their employers
In the online literature, the underlying tone that appears to be in all of the reasons for dual employment, is that of restrained relationships with corporations. Many employees feel that their employers are unreliable in the face of layoffs and “office politics.”
The creator of the Overemployed community shares that in the midst of the pandemic, many corporations enacted corporate-wide layoffs. He also shares that in his own job he was “passed over for a promotion” and that “to add insult to injury” he wasn’t informed of his coworkers’ promotions. “Over half of the team got promoted while I was left with a 0% raise. I cried from feeling worthless and rejected” states Issac, the creator of Overemployed.
Employees with two remote full-time jobs are likely to see this as an opportunity to increase their resilience against layoffs and unforeseen circumstances like those described by Issac. They are also likely to see their employers as unreliable and potentially even corrupt. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, there is currently “widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world” including employers and businesses. Furthermore, the credibility of CEOs is facing “all-time lows in several countries…” Only 61% of individuals worldwide report trusting businesses as a whole (Edelman, 2021). This distrust of employers, CEOs, and corporations has encouraged employees to diversify their employment, decreasing their reliance on one sole corporation for employment.
“You don’t achieve greatness in life being surrounded by mediocre people with mediocre values. Choose your company wisely.” - Amy Chan
What cheaters are doing to manage dual employment
In reading through the advice provided by websites such as Reddit, Discord, and Overemployed.com, it’s truly a generational pushback against employers. Factors leading to the environment of this sea change include:
Diminishing number of individuals available for employment (see Facing the New Sansdemic for additional insight);
Aging workforce with Baby Boomers leaving the workforce, and younger talent remaining in the workforce asking and getting larger demands, as their talent pool becomes scarce;
And, demographic and attitudinal changes of the workforce.
Remote employees taking on two full-time jobs face a challenge on how to take on managing both jobs and safeguard their wellbeing and mindshare. Neither job can receive the full 40 hours of work that is requested, but in some cases, both jobs can receive work deemed adequate (or the minimally viable level of work effort) to maintain employment and not get terminated.
Employers should be watchful for these attitudes and behaviors that might tell of dual work
On these pro-2x job boards, the discussion of how to manage dual remote employment offer several key strategies that employers should be aware of.
Be silent: “don’t talk about working two remote jobs”
Overemployed recommends that those with two full time jobs should not share this information with others. “Most of the people that are found working two jobs are found from connections that share the same network” is their reasoning for this rule.
You will eventually get caught: “have an exit strategy”
Remote employees with dual employment are advised to “know when to get out,” know what they want, and “have a plan when things do not go as [they] planned.” Remotely employed individuals with two full-time jobs strategically plan how they will leave one job if their dual employment is discovered or they find better financial opportunities elsewhere.
It is also recommended to “be average. Don’t cause attention. Try not to be recognized. Don’t add more work for yourself.” This serves two purposes: to ensure that both full-time jobs can be performed without one requiring too much work and to reduce the chance of having your dual employment being noticed through common connections.
“Get what you want by giving people what they want”
Employees who are balancing two full-time jobs are required to maintain an understanding of the basic requirements of both jobs and then plan to meet these requirements. “Success in two jobs is all about perception… Think from their [the employer’s] angle to see what they care about so you can send the signals and reap the ‘rewards’.”
Ignore your guilt feelings: remember your mission
When balancing two full-time jobs, employees can’t be afraid of the judgment of peers from “doing a mediocre job” or early resignation from second jobs that are “too demanding.” Overemployed states that “you have to leave that ego aside and remember your mission, using the 2nd job as a means for money…. Realize your salary will not scale with the amount of work you do…” Loyalty to corporations or employers is not considered a top priority by dually employed individuals. The relationship between the dually employed employee and their employer is one of minimal appeasement: do what is required and what is best for your own goal attainment.
“Always seek to self improve”
There are many challenges that dually employed employees face. Some of these include “conflicting meetings, overlapping deadlines, and LinkedIn management." All of these challenges require “self-reflection and constant improvement.” These employees are having to navigate the new territory of working from home as well as working multiple jobs in secret. Maintaining this work style is tasking and requires consistent reflection for successful execution.
In reviewing the comments on Overemployed’s webpage, dually employed individuals shared other strategies they have that help them keep their two jobs manageable. Some use different computers for each job, extensive note-taking, multiple calendars, even going by their middle name instead of their first name.
“You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.” - Andrew Carnegie
The are risks for employees who venture into this two full-time job gamble
While having two full-time careers might increase salary and decrease reliance on one corporation, it has potentially long-term negative drawbacks.
First, it is a clear integrity issue that for most would violate their non-compete agreements and the expectation that employers are paying a full day’s wage for a full day’s work.
Second, as an integrity foul, dually employed employees risk being terminated and stigmatized for their lack of ethics, which could have a lasting impact, ultimately scarring their career.
Third, employees wishing to climb the corporate ladder and advance in their careers will be less available for promotion, as they are juggling two jobs and this takes considerable time away from excelling in their careers.
Fourth, being “average” does not allow room for career and skill development or encourage lifetime learning which is the substance of preparation for future contribution.
Fifth, working from home can reduce the probability of salary increases because employees who work in the traditional face-to-face workplace are more likely to get promotions and raises than those who work at home (Morgan, 2021).
Lastly, working two full-time jobs remotely is not the preferred method of employment for those who wish to invest in their career, build skill sets, develop long-term relationships, and move upwards in their company.
Effects on Exploited Employers
A loss in excellence
One of the primary disadvantages of having employees who have two full-time jobs is the loss of excellence. As stated previously, employees with two full-time jobs strive to maintain an “average” performance that keeps them from being fired but also prevents them from taking on new responsibilities. This can lead to a decrease in internal hiring for leadership positions and a decrease in overall productivity for organizations. If only the mandatory levels of productivity are achieved, businesses can experience a lack of innovation. Hiring already full-time employed employees that only seek to attain the “average” levels of performance can waste valuable time, training, and resources, in unappreciated attempts to support their career and skill development. When employees are already engaged in another full-time job, they are not fully committed to the development of their career at either corporation, ultimately inducing loss for organizations that intend career advancement for their employees.
A loss in productivity
Not only do employers experience a loss of excellence, but they also experience a loss in productivity. Employees who are splitting their time between two full-time jobs are not committing the full 40-hours of work they are assigned to do. Instead, they are completing only what is necessary to avoid termination. This causes a loss in productivity from the dually employed employee as well as any groups or teams that he/she is a part of. Furthermore, as this trend continues to grow in popularity, employers can experience an exponential decrease in productivity as more employees take on two full-time jobs.
The main takeaway
Employees who take on two full-time positions do so for a variety of reasons. There is a difference between the employee who works full-time in the day for a company, and who also works at night as a waiter/waitress making extra income. This is not cheating but hard work. What we are talking about in this article are the cheaters who agree to double bill their time to two employers at the same time, like selling a piece of real estate to two owners. In time, this cheating behavior will be detected and likely be viewed as damaging to an employee’s career as cheating on an exam in college. Integrity matters and without it, there is limited trust.
Many of the excuses for dual-employment boil down to a lack of trust in employers, feeling that there is a lack of upward mobility in their organizations, or that there is a lack of reward for excellent performance. Because of this, these overemployed individuals have transitioned to an employment practice that thrives off of deceitful and mediocre performance in order to maintain two full-time jobs. While this doesn’t offer them the career development they desire, they claim that they can increase their resiliency toward layoffs and earn extra income to pay off debt or student loans.
Employers who have employees with two full-time jobs do not get the full benefit of excellent performance and an employee who seeks to improve their performance. Employers with dual employees are exploited, wasting valuable time, money, and resources intended for career development on these employees who strive for mediocrity.
As this trend continues to gain traction and grow in the remote working community, it is important for employers to be aware of the potential loss associated with having remote employees with two full time jobs. Be alert of the potential losses your company may be experiencing and stay tuned to the Arete Coach website for more information on how to prevent dual-employment in your business.
In closing, I return to the sage words of Andrew Carnegie,
“The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.” - Andrew Carnegie
As employers and business coaches, we need to find, keep, and reward employees that give 100% of their working mindshare to the enterprise.
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