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‘Double dipping’: why managers worry that staff have a second job on the sly

There is growing concern that remote workers are offering their services elsewhere

Thanks to Covid, my normal working day is generally spent at my desk in the office, or at the computer on my kitchen table, or somewhere in between.

Wherever I am though, I can’t remember ever thinking I could take advantage of this freedom to work remotely to get another full-time job on the sly.

Now I have, thanks to a conversation I had last week with Anthony Klotz, the American academic who coined the Great Resignation phrase during the pandemic and is now at University College London’s school of management.

He told me that when he had been speaking to large audiences of managers over the past six months, one of the most common concerns they raised was about remote workers secretly taking on a second job. “It is one of the main three questions that comes up,” he said.


The managers weren’t talking about part-time side hustles, or a bit of brief moonlighting, or the back-breaking multiple jobs that poorly paid workers are forced to take on.

They were worried that remote workers had craftily taken on another full-time, white collar, salaried job – on top of the one they were already being paid to do.

Klotz is just a sample of one but there is evidence the executives he was talking to are far from alone.

A sizeable 16 per cent of chief human resources officers at large companies told the Gallup polling and consulting firm a few months ago that their executive team believed remote employees might secretly work for multiple companies.

It is probably no surprise then that 50 per cent of the HR bosses said their business had punitive policies for workers who flouted hybrid rules – a big jump from the 16 per cent who said this in September 2022.

I understand why executives might harbour these fears, especially if they lack systems enabling managers to have a good idea of what staff are doing and how well they’re doing it, no matter where they work. As Klotz says, the worry about multiple job-jugglers probably reflects a larger concern about how invisible remote workers spend their time.

I can also see why employees savaged by endless lay-offs such as those in the US tech sector might find the safety of two jobs appealing, despite the stress involved. A website called Overemployed was started by such a person in 2021 to help other two-timers “give the man, aka Corporate America, the middle finger for always trying to screw the little people over”.

But I was surprised to see research published by the consultancy McKinsey in September showing that 5 per cent of the workforce in a typical organisation was engaged in the “growing phenomenon” of double-dipping.

McKinsey described what it called “polyworkers” as full-time salaried employees holding two or more jobs simultaneously, probably in secret, and often when working remotely.

Even 5 per cent sounds high to me, but that is because my one job takes up more than enough time.

Also I am not a software engineer. The only two-timing case I have personally heard about concerned a man in that job at a small start-up who was sacked as soon as his bosses discovered what he was doing.

He might have been inspired by Bryan Roque, another software engineer who lost his job at Amazon early in the pandemic.

Roque then managed to acquire three jobs at IBM, Meta and Tinder, he told the Business Insider news site recently, which put him on track to earn more than $820,000 (€749,000) a year.

But the stress of long hours and keeping each employer secret from the others took its toll, especially after Meta asked him to go into the office for a couple of days a week.

If he couldn’t book a room to make private IBM and Tinder calls, he had to have nerve-jangling conversations in Meta’s open-plan office that could have easily been overheard.

He ended up ditching all three jobs and taking a solitary new one, which I find instructive.

If someone with Roque’s steely nerves could not hack this extreme form of moonlighting, for close to $1 million, there may not be too many others like him. And even if there are, they may not last nearly as long as a lot of managers fear. –Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023