Priya, a marketing professional in a big FMCG brand had always enjoyed styling and makeup. An expert at it, she often helped her friends and family style and dress up for their special days. It would give her great joy. In 2020, after the COVID-19 outbreak when she started working from home and was isolated at home, to keep herself busy she turned to creating styling videos and in a few months became a popular digital artist on social media. She started getting offers to style people for their weddings and other special occasions. But she didn’t want to quit her job. Priya, a marketing professional in a big FMCG brand is now also a fashion consultant and makeup artist. While she dedicatedly works on her deliverables at work, she follows her other passion on weekends or after work hours. She is happier, more productive, and also financially stronger.
Side-hustling is the new normal! In a recent survey, 70 percent of those interviewed said ‘side-hustles’ or 'ethical moonlighting' are the real shot to fame and 69 percent shared that they would want to earn from their hobbies.
“The definition of success has changed. More and more people are now looking at becoming debt-free very early in life. Some are even looking ahead towards early retirement and hence turning to multiple flows of income,” Shaakun Khanna, Leader of Human Capital Management Strategy & Transformation for the Asia Pacific told People Matters.
The Hybrid Work Boon
The intent to follow the side-hustle has further been reignited as it has now in the post-pandemic world become more feasible to pursue. The hybrid or flexible work models are saving commute time and helping people explore other sources of income as well.
“Hybrid work has enabled the trend of side-hustling,” Rasesh Seth, Founder, Nextyn told People Matters. “People are saving time on other facets of life such as travel and they're using that extra time to a side hustle and make an additional income,” he added.
If you look closer, the rise of side-hustling is also tied with work-life balance and employees’ will to have a purpose beyond their work.
"People want to have their identity and live beyond work as well," Sidharth Rawat, Founder, Exly, added.
In addition to hybrid work, the availability of technological tools, social networks and social media platforms are allowing people to connect, market, and deliver their expertise.
“We have seen about 100 million people becoming creators, knowledge professionals and this has been made possible because of the rise of media and increase in consumption of content across platforms,” Sidharth said.
This doesn’t mean that the emerging trend of side-hustling is restricted to youngsters or digital content creators only. The rise of consultants and specialists at the CXO level is also prevalent.
But are organisations and leaders ready to accept and respond to the shift towards side-hustling? Will they resist the change with more rigid policies or will they reinvent the system of work to make it more flexible and performance-driven?
The organisational readiness: India Inc yet to decode the benefits of side hustling
“It's a matter of perspective really. Traditional thinking would look at this as a matter of integrity especially if the employee is falling behind in productivity, results etc.,” Manish Trehan – Partner, CoHire shared with People Matters.
“However, it's very rare that all employees in current roles have been employed to optimal capacity, and allowing them to sharpen skills and experience through ethical moonlighting brings many benefits to the organisation that allows them,” Manish added.
Most of the organisations and leaders are still processing the rise of side-hustle but then there are some who have not only accepted it but are leveraging it as a key lever to enhance employees’ productivity and engagement.
Topmost concerns worrying organisations include, "Productivity loss, ability to do justice to the company is compromised, the training and development that is given from the employer is being used for different companies, data getting leaked, the secret of excellence in the process is shared unofficially," said Narayan Bhargava, Chairman and Managing Director of Calibehr, Business Solution Provider.
But here's another way to look at it.
Manish suggests some ways in which organisations can benefit from embracing side husting:
- Greater learning & skill enhancement when employees take up extra projects, to better utilize their time.
- Greater productivity of the employee's time allows for better earnings for the employee and therefore higher engagement within the existing company which allows ethical moonlighting.
- Finally, in the long run the industry sees cost benefits as costs of employee work are shared whereas at an individual level earnings rise, a win-win situation for all.
Side-hustling is not for everyone
Working on multiple jobs is not for the faint-hearted. It takes even more effort, work, and determination to fulfill your responsibilities in multiple projects. An individual has to be skilled at many things including time management, project management, and agility.
Leaders need to understand that these side-hustlers in their organisations might be the top performers they actually need to keep close. So, instead of working on strategies to restrict them to working for only one company, they must focus on driving a result-oriented culture.
The hybrid work model makes it easier as it allows organisations to create a system of work not defined by time spent at work rather by performance and contribution.
“Our belief is that the pandemic has forced companies to relook at work allocation and skill utilisation through innovative ways and one of the most effective & efficient tools for retention & upskilling of employees would be to build systematic frameworks for ethical moonlighting. In the end, everyone wins,” said Manish.
Redraft your employment contract for more flexibility
The world of work is now employee-driven. Organisations that don’t respond to the shifting priorities of talent will eventually perish. Given how dramatically the context of work and workplace has changed, leaders and organisations that they lead need to deeply internalise a culture of agility and flexibility.
“Organisations need to make more room for open and transparent communication in their culture,” said Sidharth.
As long as there is no conflict of interest, the organisations can allow the employees to pursue the side-hustle. The policies or the employment contracts should be redrafted in a way that allows employees more flexibility, while it lays out clear goals and expectations of the current role.
Rasesh said, “The contracts need to be redrafted to have more flexibility and not to have more clauses in it. The restrictions will only add to the attrition rates.”
In a healthy work environment, employees are not driven to work because of the strict guidelines but their passion to make a meaningful contribution.
Employees who are not capable of delivering the work according to expectations will not be able to do it even if they are working only one job.
In her book, The Multi-Hyphen Method, Emma Gannon highlights that it doesn't matter if you're a part-time PA with a blog, or a physio who runs an online jewellery store in the evenings - whatever your ratio, whatever your mixture, we can all channel the entrepreneurial spirit.
Normalising side-hustling for better productivity
“Firstly, organisations need to acknowledge that side-hustling is a trend, a concern, or an aspiration,” Shaakun Khanna said. The second step is then enablement—framing guidelines and supporting employees to pursue their passion and earn extra income, without cannibalising their contributions at their full-time job.
Highlighting the insights from his survey, Shaakun shared that about 43 percent of organisations have worked on policy frameworks to define different work arrangements like side-hustles and gig working. The other 9 percent are actively working on it because they have realised the need to accept this emerging trend. And then there are other companies who are not doing anything about it.
It’s slowly but positively becoming a trend now to have multiple skills and also have the ability to take up diverse projects. If we all look at the bigger picture, the expertise in one domain does fuel excellence in another. Instead of resisting the change, organisations must look at this as an opportunity to create multiple avenues of learning and growth for their talent within the same ecosystem. In other cases, where such opportunities to explore their other work interests are not possible in the same company, holding them back may result only in high attrition.