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Working a second job is nothing new. Moonlighting is as old as moonlight. Most who moonlight are hovering around federally defined livable wages and are disproportionally women and single parents. These people need the extra funds.
However, remote workers make $66,000 annually on average, far above the livable wage. The WSJ reports that those they interviewed are on track to make $200,000 to $600,000 per year with that extra job. This is fundamentally different from someone who labors in landscaping during the day and in restaurant kitchens in the evening.
There is a reason people working remotely are opting for a second job.
Remote is hard to manage, much less lead. Virtual leadership is a mystery. The nature of remote work allows for minimally acceptable performance and weak enforcement means. There is no readily available mechanism for supervisors to insist on excellence or assign ancillary tasks.
If people with well-paid remote jobs can pull moonlighting off, why not seek another job? Why not increase income? That’s only rational. Self-interest is a powerful motivator.
Fifty-seven percent of remote employees are only doing their primary job. They’re plenty busy. A fair number, 18%, report some moonlighting that they might have engaged in before working remotely. Maybe those hours come from entrepreneurs who recruited some part-time talent. A strong percentage (13%) admits to working 10 to 20 hours for another company. Perhaps that moonlighting is labors of love. Eight percent say they work 20-30 hours outside their primary job. Four percent reported working two jobs.
It should be that the more one works outside of their primary job, the more one believes their performance is negatively affected. That just makes sense. It turns out that’s only true up to a point.
There is just one explanation that captures these results: When double the work is taken on, the less one believes their performance is adversely affected. The explanation here comes from research into cognitive dissonance, which reasons the harder one works, the more they value the pursuit because they have to justify the effort. It’s a “sunk costs” or “escalation of commitment” phenomenon.
This research punctures a widely held myth: that remote workers are using any extra time to better themselves. They aren’t all exercising or planting gardens or painting or digging Koi ponds. They’re working. Often a second job. Not necessarily to benefit their primary employer or their primary colleagues, but to benefit their own pocketbooks.
Remote work has allowed homers to moonlight. Because all of those informal office dynamics—camaraderie, citizenship, sociability, information exchange, bonding, and others—have been stripped away by late rising and sweat pants and polo shirts.
It appears that the day of employee loyalty is long gone. Loyalty has been waning for decades and was always elusive. Leading remote workers is hard enough. Now it means you have to keep your people working for just you, much less jumping ship.
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