Workers with two jobs — is this really a problem?

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If an employee works two jobs, are they really stealing from your company?

I don’t think so, but Canopy CEO Davis Bell apparently does.

Bell, whose company is a midsized, Utah-based accounting practice management software firm, wrote on LinkedIn that he’d recently “fired two recent hire engineers who never quit their last job at a big tech company. The reason? This is not about side hustles or moonlighting. These were people holding down two, full-time synchronous jobs and lying about it — trying to be in two meetings at once, etc. Their early performance was really bad, and fortunately, we have great managers who sniffed them out very quickly.”

Okay, so far. I don’t care why someone’s performance is terrible — if they can’t do the job, then, after trying to get them up to speed, they’re out. If someone lies to me, they’re history. But, and this is where Bell and I run on separate tracks, if someone can do my job while doing another job, I’m fine with that.

Seriously.

As I’ve been saying for some time, it’s not just my opinion that shorter work weeks and working from home help with productivity. The proof is out there. And, if someone can be successful at working two jobs, more power to them.

According to Bell, there are, “Core moral issues at play: ‘working’ two full-time jobs is stealing, and it also involves a great deal of lying and deception.” Does it? In this case, no one was stealing. What I’d fire them for was lying and failing at the jobs.

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I mean, Bell, himself, works two jobs. He’s both a CEO and has been an angel investor in 11 different companies during the last six years. If he’s doing justice to his “jobs,” then he’s undoubtedly working two full-time jobs. I don’t see anyone saying he’s stealing from his company.

Nor does anyone say Elon Musk, who’s running Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Neuralink, and soon, maybe Twitter as well, is “stealing” from his stock owners?

Bell thinks this trend of people working two full-time jobs is “a new form of theft and deception and not something in which an ethical, honest person would participate.”

I disagree. I know many people who work two full-time jobs and side gigs as well. It’s called surviving. You see, not everyone is working multiple jobs to cash in. Many workers do it because they don’t have a choice. They do it because they’re struggling and need the income.

According to the US Census, long before COVID-19 changed the way we work, 8.3% of workers, 13 million, had more than one job. Their numbers have been increasing. And, even as they work themselves to the bone, they earn less than people with good full-time jobs. A Pew Research Center report, The State of Gig Work in 2021, showed many people rely on notoriously poorly paying gig work to make ends meet.

Of course, the attention this issue is getting today isn’t about the people working one job at McDonald’s and another at Wal-Mart. Unless you live in Silicon Valley or some other high-tech, high-cost area, software engineers don’t have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads. Instead, they’re seizing the opportunity to make as much money as they can while the making is good.

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You see, despite all the headlines about FAANG and other large companies laying people off, the truth is that tech unemployment is at a mere 2.1%. And, for the first time, in 17 years, the average tech salary has cracked the six-figure barrier.

Still, today’s workers worry. The pandemic showed many of them there’s no guarantee that just because you have a job today, you’ll have one tomorrow. Many companies have also shown for ages that they have no loyalty whatsoever to their employees.

Sure, there are lots of tech jobs out there, but will your job still exist by the end of the month? For 44,000 tech workers so far in 2022, according to Crunchbase, the answer was no. In hard times, too many businesses have also shown themselves willing to cut benefits like 401K contributions — and let’s not even talk about the disaster that’s medical insurance.

Simultaneously, working two jobs is not illegal. No employment cop is going to bust you for it. In fact, as the poor know, sometimes working two jobs is the best move you can make. Of course, you can be fired for it. In the US, almost all companies employ you at “at-will,” which means your job can be terminated at any time for any reason,

Still, no matter how much you make, inflation is likely cutting into your pay. According to Bluecrew, a workforce-as-a-service platform, almost 70% of Americans are now looking for extra work to combat inflation.

As a result, more people than ever are working two or more jobs, Indeed, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, almost 5% of employees, 440,000 people, hold multiple full-time jobs.

Rather than getting angry at people who can juggle that kind of workload, I feel sorry that so many have decided they must do this. Sites such as OverEmployed make working two jobs sound like this is a good thing. It’s not.

You do what you must, which could mean working two good-paying jobs. But over-work is over-work, and workaholism isn’t healthy.

And it’s not criminal. As “Washington Post” columnist, Karla L. Miller, quoting a Reddit writer, said: “It’s long been accepted for people to work for two or three low-paying jobs or gigs just to scrape by — but as soon as we talk about getting two real paychecks, having secondary insurance, having twice the opportunity to save for retirement — it becomes a big ethical issue!”

Miller sums this up as “it seems the main objection to overemployment is not that people are working multiple jobs to earn more, but that they’re doing so without working themselves to death in the process.”

Aye, there’s the rub. While I’ve no problem with people working multiple jobs if they can pull it off, there’s a more serious problem lurking behind this new trend. In Japan, they called it karoshi. It literally means working yourself to death. That is my real concern, not that anyone is “stealing” from my company.

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