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8 surprising benefits of encouraging employees to pursue side gigs

Many employees these days have hobbies or business skills they use to supplement their income with second jobs or project-based consulting. Often, workers try to keep these side gigs secret from their employer for fear they’ll be told to drop their outside work due to a conflict of interest.

However, organizations that encourage employees to pursue side jobs see many benefits, from increased innovation and employee satisfaction to decreased burnout. Below are eight benefits to encouraging employees to seek side work.

1. Outside assignments can spur creativity

 Side gigs allow employees to experiment and can expose your employees to different people, processes, procedures or vendors. This exposure can then spur new approaches and creativity in their day jobs. For instance, in helping a friend develop a marketing plan for their start-up, your marketing director may help your big, mature company consider a new approach to social media.

2. Unnecessary restrictions on off-hours activities turn off employees

Many employees may balk at any policies they see as overly controlling of their off hours. Plus, freelance gigs are quite common for some types of jobs, such as graphic design or software development. Millennials, in particular,  are more likely to be in a lower paid first job and may see a second job as a necessity for paying off student loans while saving for a new car or their first house. Outlawing all outside work may scare off potential new hires who see freelance assignments as a legitimate and common way to supplement their income.

3. Pursuit of outside passions makes employees happy

Employees often seek second jobs to pursue a passion, and the joy inherent in that pursuit means your employee is more likely to come to work happy. Happiness boosts retention. Say your company’s chemical engineer wants to teach yoga in the evenings and on the weekends. There’s clearly no conflict of interest and you’ll get a healthy, satisfied team member if you allow her to engage in her passion.

4. Don’t assume you’ll lose them to their second job

More than 7 in 10 employees (71 percent) who have a side job say they don’t want to turn their side gig into their day job, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Think about it. How likely is it that your office assistant who sells handmade soaps on Etsy will take her hobby full-time?

5. They’re demonstrating valuable characteristics

An employee who devotes energy to a second job is demonstrating exactly the qualities you want in your staff. Taking on more work indicates leadership, hard work, problem-solving, innovation and a proactive, self-starting attitude. You want to encourage that, right?

6. They’ll bring back new skills and professional connections

An accountant who manages the finances for her favorite non-profit may learn about new software or regulations that could help your business. Or, a software developer may volunteer to create a mobile app and gather new skills that could apply to your company. In both cases, your company gains a more experienced employee without any investment on your part.

7. It prevents burnout

Outside projects can give employees a creative outlet for skills and interests that go unused in their day jobs, which helps prevent burnout. The more you can reduce burnout, the longer you’ll be able to keep employees with you.

8. Side jobs may remind employees the grass isn’t always greener

Every company or nonprofit has its own ways of doing things. The good thing about letting your employees work for someone else is that such experience may make them appreciate your company more than they did prior to their exposure.

What to do about side gigs

It may be tempting to create one policy that forbids all employees from accepting any type of off-hours work. But, before implementing a new policy outlawing outside work, consider whether current policies on the handling of confidential company information and use of company equipment already protect your company adequately.

Also of note, state laws vary as far as what employers can control in terms of their employee’s activities outside of work. In California, for example, employers can only limit employees’ outside employment if it creates a conflict of interest.

It’s important to implement guidelines that request transparency from employees about outside work and clearly define expectations about what constitutes a conflict of interest. Encourage team members to talk to their manager before pursuing freelance assignments or second jobs. If the job doesn’t impact performance, become distracting or present a conflict of interest, managers should be supportive.

Need more tips on how to manage your employees? Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.

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2 responses to “8 surprising benefits of encouraging employees to pursue side gigs

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Debbie Stein

good article overall. The side jobs we deal with the most are those people acting as Uber or Lyft drivers and coming to work exhausted from driving late into the night. Any thoughts there?

Insperity Blog

Thanks for your feedback, Debbie! I would advise that any organization clearly state in its handbook its policies on side jobs. It should also be very clear, both in writing and in conversations, that any side job that affects an employee’s performance is prohibited. This way, when such behavior occurs, the employee can be counseled and warned that termination could be possible.

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