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But some workers have found a way to increase their earnings without increasing their overall hours through a practice they call overemployment. Instead of quitting one job and moving into another, overemployed workers simultaneously perform multiple full-time jobs from home, with their employers usually not being any the wiser.
I first heard about overemployment early in the coronavirus pandemic from a neighbor who knew several software engineers working two full-time jobs at once. More recently, Wired magazine reporter Fadeke Adegbuyi explored overemployment. Thousands of users on Reddit and TikTok, as well as the overemployed.com site, are sharing strategies, warnings and success stories about their overemployed experiences.
It’s not hard to see the call. Having multiple employers allows workers to diversify their work in the same way that savvy investors diversify their stock holdings. If they lose a job through layoff or reorganization, they have another paycheck to fall back on. They can often enroll in multiple health care plans, allowing them to coordinate benefits to reduce medical costs. And if done correctly, being overworked doesn’t mean being overworked. By accepting junior positions and effectively arranging their schedules, workers can balance their personal and professional obligations.
But there are challenges to overemployment. One of the most important, in my opinion, is the need for secrecy. Although no law generally prohibits multiple jobs, employers generally have the right to fire anyone they catch doing so. As employers develop more sophisticated ways to track worker activity remotely (“tattleware” that monitors mouse movements and captures screenshots), workers come up with more elaborate ways to evade the detection (mouse jigglers, multiple devices, freezing employment and income data that may show up on background checks).
Proponents of overemployment say they are only turning things around after years of exploitation and underpayment.
“Zero regrets. Six months after quitting, these workers are thriving
Overemployment can also become a self-destructive cycle if workers lose sight of their financial goals. Extra disposable income can lead to lifestyle drift, and overemployed workers may find their extra income to pay for services, takeout, and other needs they no longer have the time or energy to meet. take care of themselves.
While overemployment, as Adegbuyi writes, feels like “the new cheat code of financial freedom” for those who can achieve it successfully, the income gap between surviving and thriving only widens for those who can. do not have access to such jobs. It’s not the fault of overemployed workers, of course – although I wonder how experienced workers in junior-level jobs might affect opportunities for entry-level candidates.
Finally, the phenomenon of overemployment, like other work trends reinforced by the pandemic, raises questions about what employers and full-time employees owe each other. Are employers paying for exclusive rights to an employee’s time and attention, or are they paying for tasks to be completed, regardless of when and where the work takes place? If the latter, what distinguishes an employee in this position from an entrepreneur?
Opponents of remote work will likely seize on overemployment as proof that unsupervised workers cannot be trusted. Some would say that getting 80 hours pay for a job done in 40 hours is greedy and unethical. But if an overemployed worker completes all tasks on time to employers’ satisfaction, what exactly is the problem?
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As one Reddit user notes, it’s long been accepted that people work two or three low-paying jobs or gigs just to get by – “But as soon as we talk about getting two real paychecks, having a secondary insurance, to have twice the opportunity to save for retirement — it becomes a big ethical problem!”
In other words, it seems that the main objection to overemployment is not that people work multiple jobs to earn more, but that they do so without killing themselves on the job in the process.