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The Twilight Hours – the Only Free Time One is Likely to Have in the Future


There’s a lot of chit-chat underway regarding moonlighting and whether it is ethical. Essentially, it’s the tech sector’s problem to address as employers have allowed leeway to work from anywhere.

 Flexibility is a two-way street, and while it accords employees greater freedom to decide how they want to use their time, at the same time, it can constrain employers. As we all know, WFH (work from home) was the world’s combative response to sustaining business continuity during covid and ensuring people had jobs.

The new normal!

Two-and-a-half years later, the attitude towards working all five days a week from the office has undergone a major shift. While many industries have gone back to life as it was before the pandemic. Still, a few others – the tech sector in particular – have not been able to get back employees to the office to the extent desired, despite embarrassing overtures (elaborate seasonal parties, “catch-ups”, et al.) that may even show the workforce in poor light. Words like “Spoilt”, “pampered”, and “privileged” get bandied by cynics which draws ire from a generation that wants more control over how to utilise their time.       

It was unthinkable to have a five-day workweek at one point, but it happened. At another point, it was equally inconceivable that employees could WFH for an extended period and yet do a good job at being productive. That, too, has happened! There’s enough statistical evidence to support the claim that humans have done a fine job in the last 2.5 years in terms of productivity.

Moonlighting, the next shift?

Moonlighting is likely the next massive shift. If an employee is working for more than one employer at a given point, then common sense has it that the average weekly work hours would extend way beyond 40 and may even touch 60 or 70. Many high achievers are known to put in 80 hours weekly.

The problem is, in parallel, many employees cry foul when there’s work pressure for an extended period where people are required to put in very long hours. Some months back, a CEO was trolled mercilessly because he had suggested that young people at the beginning of their careers ought to put in 16 or 18-hour work days. Yes, not everyone cries foul, and neither is the entire workforce expected to work long hours. Most employers recognise the need for balance and are adequately sensitised on employee well-being (physical, mental & financial).

If people are inclined to work two shifts, should they complain about work pressure from their primary employer? Needs pondering.

Accountability for unrecognised labour

The argument that moonlighting has an impact on productivity is not a very strong one. People who play a sport or work out heavily in the gym, mothers who have young children, or folks with aged parents staying with them also expend a lot of energy daily on non-office work activities. Can you stop them? Sure, if you work out three hours a day, will you be mentally agile for the rest of the day? The body requires time to recover, so they run a high risk. There are enough productivity tools and goal-setting exercises that can reasonably measure employee performance – above par or sub-par.

Job losses are real, and people are being asked to go, so it’s best left to individuals to decide how they want to expend their energy while also sensitising them about the consequences of productivity fall. In the coming years, India may shed a lot of its benevolent attitude towards employment and the element of permanency or job security will gradually fade away.

The other side of the fence

A fundamental question – can an employee have more than one PF contributor to their UAN Account at any given time? Technically, they can, but in the real world, it’s improbable – if not downright impossible – that the second employer will ever get into such a relationship knowing full well it’s dual employment. With the rise of the gig economy, employers are increasingly exploring this route. That’s how some of the folks got caught. On due diligence, it was found that there was more than one PF contribution (at a particular time). Presumably, the individual may have hidden this crucial fact (from the second employer).

Secondly, in a world of cut-throat competition, legend has it that employees were fired if they were caught consuming a competitor’s beverage at the height of the Cola Wars. In such an environment and when the individual is made aware of the scenario, it is ethically wrong for, let’s say, a Pepsico employee to also moonlight for Coke, or vice-versa. This logic can be extended to IT Services or Product companies which compete. And their clients as wellData privacy is yet another critical ask.

The grey area happens if there’s no conflict of interest and moonlighting is in a non-competing area. And what happens to people who aren’t moonlighting – are they perceived as loyal and rewarded in accordance? The issue is not limited only to the IT sector, and there are companies forced to look into building new policies for their employees.

There are some apparent benefits of moonlighting – skill-building, a dual source of income, a feel-good factor, etc. The professional world has become ruthless, and job losses are increasingly real. So, moonlighting does provide a sort of cushion.

Ask any married man or woman who had an affair and got caught eventually. They can tell how the dynamics change overnight.  

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