'Double dipping' | Microsoft's ex-HR exec champions workers having two jobs - is he right?

Microsoft's ex-HR exec champions workers having two jobs - is he right?

Of the many taboos rarely discussed within the workplace, few are as divisive as the concept of operating two jobs.

Of course, the knee jerk reaction for many is that an employee dividing their time, efforts and dedication between two employers is a net negative. After all, how can a worker truly contribute to your culture if they’re also part of another?

However, of course when digging into the issue, it’s far more complex than this simple assessment. For example, if, like any of the bottom third of earners within the UK, you cannot afford to cover your overheads in the current cost-of-living crunch, there’s little choice but to find an alternative source of income.

There’s also the rise of the gig economy to consider. Especially in creative industries, or the service industry, businesses are more invested in employing freelancers to work on limited contracts than ever before. Around half a million people within the UK currently earn an income via the gig economy, according to recent data from the CIPD. If working multiple jobs is an issue for your business, does that limit access to freelancers too?

Some, such as Uber or Deliveroo, rely on this demographic as a core of their business. A quick look at the number of Uber drivers in your area will tell you clearly enough that this is a concept that isn’t going away any time soon.

This is a subject that Ex-Microsoft HR VP, Chris Williams, recently discussed at length in an op-ed. Williams, with all of his experience in executive roles and as the former HR VP at Microsoft, whole heartedly believes in the concept of allowing workers to fill their personal time in any way they wish, even if this means fulfilling another job.

He argues that in fact, working multiple jobs is an age-old staple of the working world, without which many people would be in serious financial trouble. “Working multiple jobs is a part of the fabric of the working work – so common that it’s in the origin stories of many successful people.”

Williams also believes that leaders have no right to dictate whether an employee is able to work multiple jobs. “You don’t own your employee’s lives,” he says. “What they choose to do when not working is simply none of your business.”

But is he right? Do businesses have no say over the prospect of employees working multiple jobs? The answer is perhaps slightly murkier than Williams claims. For one, an employment contract is legally fine to dictate that the role be the employee’s sole job. Similarly, it’s likely that any contract will prevent an employee from the possibility of doing work with company clients privately.

In this case, if an employee chooses to defy their contract, it’s a breach that could well conclude in the two parties going their separate ways.

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Similarly, if a second job affects a workers’ performance, this could well be grounds for action. This is true regardless of the core reason, but it’s highly likely that, say if a worker was doing an office job in the day and then working at a bar until the early hours, this would affect their ability to carry out their day job.

So yes, it’s possible to prevent employees from ‘double dipping’, as the concept has been coined. However, there are solid reasons why, although concern may be your initial reaction, the prospect isn’t actually a negative. And, if the reason for working two jobs is financial, perhaps there’s a conversation to be had internally about the financial wellbeing of employees.

"If the employee is underperforming, address the deficit. Hold them accountable for their deliverables. Press them to provide the value you're paying them for. Treat it as you would any other performance issue," Williams says.

"Your response should be: I expect and am paying for these results, you're not delivering, let's solve that problem," he concluded.

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