The Employee, The Side Hustle, And The Workplace

The concept of a side hustle is not new to many working-class people. Most likely, you either know and understand what it means, you have a side hustle, or you know someone who has a side hustle. Having a side hustle is not a new practice as many people grew up seeing older family members with side hustles. Remember the older folks who sold clothes and textiles while they worked full-time jobs? The supermarket owner who got someone else to run it while she went to work?

So, what exactly is a side hustle? A side hustle can be said to be an income-generating activity one does in addition to a full-time job but not at the same time as the full-time job. Primarily, this means that the side hustle should not compete with one’s full-time job. It is often an activity one is passionate about and not a second job or a part-time job. One tends to have full control over what one decides to do or not do as a side hustle, and one can also determine the amount of commitment one gives to it.

Having a side hustle in this day and age is commonplace. Looking around, it would seem like it’s a default action by many employees so one begins to wonder, why do people take on side hustles? Considering our peculiar environment with all its economic issues, and the cost and quality of living, an obvious reason would be the need to make more money to cater to needs especially when the take-home pay doesn’t take one home. Having a side hustle helps people earn more money to make up for the shortfalls in their salary so they can meet their basic needs. Now, not everyone has shortfalls regarding basic needs, for some others, the motivation is to earn extra income to cater to their wants and desires such as funding future projects or travels and holidays.

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For some other people, the motivation to start a side hustle isn’t for economic reasons (although this could change along the way). It could be as an outlet for a creative idea or passion or to execute a project or idea that their day jobs ordinarily doesn’t accommodate. An example could be an Accountant who loves to bake and express herself through baking; she would not get the opportunity to do so through her accounting job, so starting a side hustle would help her channel that passion.

Other people are also ideas-driven or solution centred and once they find an opportunity they can take advantage of, their side hustles are birthed. Their day jobs may not provide an opportunity for them to experiment with their ideas so starting a side hustle provides that outlet for them.

As more and more people start side hustles, organisations are presented with workplace challenges such as issues of workplace ethics, trust, reliability, focus on work objectives, etc. Employees who have side hustles are also faced with the challenge of understanding how to comport themselves in the workplace. How then should such employees balance their full-time jobs with their side hustles and ensure neither one suffers significantly and how should organisations address the practice of side hustling in the workplace, the employees who have side hustles, and their side hustles? Let’s take the first issue.

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My go-to rule is that one’s job must come first, always. It is important to understand that one is an employee who has a side hustle and not that one is a side hustler who has a full-time job. Knowing this, employees can adopt these tips to achieve some sort of balance:

  1. Work on their side hustles during their own time, maximising before and after work hours, breaks, weekends, and holidays
  2. Ensure that they do not use their employer’s resources for their side hustles; these include tangible resources such as stationery, vehicles, even other employees and intangible resources such as the internet
  3. Not starting a side hustle that provides the same products and services as their employer. This is an ethical issue as one will automatically become a competitor and will find it hard to be objective at work
  4. Build a support system around themselves to help manage the rigours involved, whether human
  5. Adopt the use of technology tools where possible to ease the stress of juggling responsibilities
  6. Join a community of like-minded people where they can find support and encouragement

What about organisations? How should they manage the perceived and actual challenges that arise with their employees having side hustles? First of all, not many organisations are open to the idea of their employees engaging in any potential income bearing activity as ethical considerations may arise. Irrespective of this, it is important for organisations to realise that many employees will still have side hustles especially nowadays when there is a high focus on seeking personal fulfilment and incomes do not rise as fast as expenses. Knowing this, organisations can consider the following suggestions:

  1. Craft policies that clearly define their stand regarding the kinds of activities that their employees can take on
  2. Enlighten employees about the potential positive and negative impacts that side hustles may have on employees’ performance
  3. Create a supportive work environment that encourages openness so that employees who have side hustles are not victimised by their supervisors
  4. Encourage employees to express their side hustles at work; this could make them contribute their skills to new or existing tasks and projects or even initiate new projects that could see the start of new product or service lines that such employees can champion
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Both the employee and the employer stand to benefit from clearly defining their stance towards the practice of side hustling, and some of these benefits include:

  1. Developing new skills or improving on existing skills which they can transfer to their jobs
  2. Gaining a wider perspective and approach to doing their work as they broaden their worldview working on non-work-related activities
  3. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset can influence how employees approach their day jobs
  4. Having a solid backup plan for life after work as one could transit from employee to employer by turning their side hustle into a full-time job

Ultimately, employees who choose to have side hustles have the responsibility of ensuring that their side hustles do not interfere with their day jobs as the organisation also has the responsibility of ensuring that they provide a supportive work environment that encourages their employees to deploy their skills in whichever way they can express themselves. With clearly defined policies and structures, both the employee and the employer stand to benefit a great deal.

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