Now moonlighting in focus

Dual employment in any form hurts productivity of employees as well as organisations
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It’s incredible! Moonlighting is garnering attention in the Indian corporate world. Large sections of employees of major IT giants like Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Wipro have been caught at the centre-stage of the controversy. The controversy is debated as illegal and unethical by the employers, while those engaged in driving moonlight don’t see it through the prism of their employers.

The employers took no time to caution their employees once they observed moonlighting bug active within their organisations. Wipro fired 300 workers for moonlighting, calling it ‘cheating’ on part of the sacked workers.

Actually, moonlighting is a sort of side business taken up by the employees, be it in government sector or corporate sector, in addition to their regular job, typically without the employer’s knowledge. The employees, as is obvious from the practice, take the route of moonlighting to supplement their income for better living standards.

Moonlighting is not something new that the major IT companies discovered in their organisations. It’s an age-old practice in vogue in public as well as private sector organisations. Despite having illegal status, the moonlighting was (and continues) to flourish under the nose of authorities. However, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic brought this dual employment scenario to the fore after a large section of the employees were forced to work from home. Taking advantage of working remotely by leveraging technology, many employees boarded the moonlighting platform clandestinely and without getting noticed by their employers.

A study in 2019 has found that professional and managerial level employees of public sectors are more engaged in moonlighting. The findings concluded that “moonlighting promotes disloyal and discontent workforce, encourages bureaucracy, promotes leisure attitude towards job, inefficient leadership, and ineffective organisational policies.” However, the study has recommended that the government should come up with necessary checkmates to prohibit moonlighting in public sectors.

The act of moonlighting and subsequent action of some major corporates against the workers involved in the dual employment has triggered a countrywide debate. Some call the act unethical and illegal, while some advocated the practice on the pretext of leading to improvement in the standard of living of employees. It is worth mentioning that by virtue of most of the conventional employment contracts in public as well as private sector organizations, the employees are barred from taking up any other side job. It’s simply unethical and amounts to cheating if the workers violate the terms and conditions of the contract.

However, moonlighting holds legal ground only when the employer allows its workers to take up a second job. Notably, there are some companies that have put a policy in place where they have allowed moonlighting for its employees outside office hours or on the weekend, without affecting productivity, and do not have a conflict of interest.

Ethically speaking, despite the issue of moonlighting being debatable, the very nature of the concept is always detrimental to the interests of the organization and to the public at large. It has direct bearing on the productivity of the organization as well as on the delivery of services to the public. In the first instance, it’s a huge challenge to the organisation as moonlighting disrespects its confidentiality in operations and can get vital organisational information compromised to unsolicited quarters. Such a situation can have adverse impact on the reputation and fundamentals of the organisation.

Let’s have a look at how the moonlighting badly influences the health of an organization. An employee taking up a second job in hand is, of course, lucrative for him as it would bring more money into his pocket. But, his performance gets impacted as he loses focus on his current job. So, he will be less productive, which ultimately will hamper the growth prospects of the organization. In other words, moonlighting will result in low productivity of an organisation.

An employee engaged in a dual job is a huge threat to the business privacy of an organisation and also poses a major competitive challenge to its operations.

In terms of medical fitness, employees engaged in moonlighting get exposed to health hazards as chances are high that they would unnoticeably get exhausted in terms of physical and mental health. Anxiety and fatigue will remain their permanent companions. This way, they will lose steam in terms of performance and can impact their employment in the long run.

Let me be blunt in stating that employees engaged in the acts of moonlighting in the same sector (for example, IT sector) are committing a theft. For instance, sharing of critical information by an employee about both the organizations is the basic problem in dual employment. It leads to sharing of business confidential information. Using other resources of the organisation for the other company compounds the problem on the ethical front. This unethical sharing of confidential business information, physical and intellectual resources simply amounts to theft. So, this is a fit case for the organizations to book such employees under the Indian Penal Code for breach of trust and committing fraud.

Meanwhile, there is a need to understand that in the growing competitive era, attracting and maintaining human resources is a challenge for any organization. There are new trends and techniques to focus on talented human capital and nourish it to the entire benefit of the organization. Here monetary benefits or compensation is the important need of an employee as it fulfills his physiological (basic) needs.

Since a hot debate has been ignited over the issue, there are certain things which an organisation can do to ensure job satisfaction of their employees. While considering moonlighting as a hole in fuel tank, it’s the primary responsibility of the organisations to arrest the trend within their four walls. Since appetite for extra income lures employees into dual employment, the organisations victim of moonlighting should revisit salary and compensation packages and make it more attractive for their workers.

In other words, an organisation can overcome the moonlighting bug by working on job satisfaction of its employees through monetary benefits. In the context of job satisfaction, such benefits are considered as highly motivating compensation for an employee, which prevent moonlighting practices.

Let the debate trigger a review of HR policy in an organisation victim of moonlighting to accomplish both management and employee goals together. Let me repeat, safeguarding the interest of employees by providing suitable monetary benefits and other incentives on time can keep the employees motivated and away from exploring the option of moonlighting.

(The views are of the author & not the organisation he works for)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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