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Working Two Jobs at the Same Time

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CNN has an article that I find extremely interesting... some employees are working two jobs at the same time. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. People are so used to multitasking nowadays that it's hard to imagine people not working two jobs at the same time. I'm not much different. A quick look at my browser shows that I have 23 Firefox tabs open at this moment. That's probably about the average for me.

I know at least two people who are working three jobs now. They have a full-time job that I suspect is near the six-figures and the nature of the work leads to downtime that can be used for the other two jobs. Is it ethical? That's a tough call. What if I told you that their employers say that they are more than just getting their job done - they are excelling? That is the case with the two individuals that I'm thinking of. Their other two jobs aren't exactly bringing in chump change either. I know that they are making them a combined two thousand dollars or more a month.

I've never been a big of fan of paying for someone's time at a flat rate. If one can do the same job faster or more efficient than someone else then that person deserves the same amount of pay - regardless of whether they can do it very quickly or not.

I feel stuck in the middle of this issue. I see three things that I can't quite resolve in my head:

  1. I think everyone should be looking to diversify their income streams. We don't have the benefit of pensions, and some of us may be justified in assume no income from Social Security. Your current job doesn't necessarily have to have any loyalty to you, but just their bottom line and their shareholders. People can develop these in their spare time, but let's look at #2 and #3
  2. I can't say that it's ethical to agree to give your time to another company and then work another job during that time. I see the problem being that we don't have a better metric for measuring "work performed." Time might be better than anything else as it's quantifiable, but it's surely not a standard measure for all people.
  3. There are the cases of start-up companies that have a culture of effectively making you work excessive overtime with no guaranteed pay. You may get stock options, but these are not necessarily worth anything (and you usually give up other benefits like 401k matching to get them). If you have such a job, it's going to be difficult or impossible to build other income streams.

As you can tell, I'm all over the place in this article. Perhaps some kind readers will have some insightful comments that will help put my Humpty Dumpty mind back together on this topic?

Posted on October 1, 2008.

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24 Responses to “Working Two Jobs at the Same Time”

  1. Jeremy says:

    Weird, people can work three jobs and remain sane?

  2. Lazy Man says:

    Actually sanity is not an adjective that I’d apply to either person. I think they’d be the first to say that’s a stretch.

  3. Mike says:

    This dilemma troubles me as well. I’ve come to call it the Productivity Paradox, which I blogged about a while back. (http://www.richerbytheday.com/2008/04/the-productivity-paradox.html)

    The paradox can be stated as follows: Being more productive, which should earn you more free time, actually gets you more work and less free time.

    It’s a difficult balance between meeting employer expectations and maximizing productivity. As you said, your friends are exceeding expectations yet doing so in less than expected time. To me, working a second income stream from the office is unethical, but leaving early (once work is completed to your employers satisfaction) to pursue other interests is ok.

  4. Getting paid by a company for your time and then using that time for a side business is unethical, no matter how you slice it. If a manager brings you into an office and says, “Sorry Chuck, we gotta let you go. It’s come to our attention that you’ve been working a few hours a day on your side business while at work.”

    What could you say to defend yourself? “But I still get my work done”??

    Not likely, you would have to just say, “You got me” and move on.

  5. Matt says:

    I agree with Writer’s Coin above. I also know that I could not manage to work multiple jobs even when my work is slow I would still feel guilty for not giving my primary employer first priority for focus.

  6. Jake says:

    I read, write, and comment on Blogs during work when it’s not busy. I don’t see the problem, you just need to decide if the risk is worth the reward. We’re all trying to get ahead in life – I don’t see anything wrong with it unless you’re lying to your main employer or pushing completion times back.

  7. Patrick says:

    I read the same article and had mixed feelings about it as well. In most jobs there is always something else that can be done during down time, in which case, using time that could be used to benefit the company could be unethical.

    In other jobs (such as firefighting or any other job that requires you to be on call or present for emergencies) it isn’t as big an issue (after you have completed your required work).

    Should it be allowed? If your current employer would have a problem with it, then you shouldn’t do it. If your employer is cool with it (as the example of the graphics designer), then it’s cool.

  8. Gary says:

    Its called time card theft here in Canada and it is very much grounds for dismissal. If you work at a job that pays by the hour then you’re expected to work exclusively for them during that time.

    I would suggest people find jobs that don’t pay by that model if you’re not happy with it. When I worked contract I often times billed clients simultaneously, but never when I worked as a salary employee.

  9. Lazy Man says:

    It’s the same here (time card theft as grounds for dismissal). Unfortunately, there are almost no jobs that pay by any other model. You can contract, but you have to then find your own health insurance and then work for finding your next job.

  10. Llama Money says:

    I work on my side business during downtime at my day job. I don’t feel bad for doing so…. I work hard at my dayjob and make sure it is my main focus. It does represent the bulk of my income at the time. If that situation changes, perhaps my focus might shift.. hard to say.

    For now, if I’m slammed with work, then my side business waits. If I’m not overwhelmed, then I find some time. If i don’t look out for myself and diversify, I might end up in some serious financial trouble.

    Then again…. I’m on a salary / bonus pay plan. If I was hourly, I would probably feel differently. I haven’t worked a 40 hour week in so many years I can’t remember.

  11. t-luck says:

    mmm… didn’t expect to see these kind of feedback on this topic. All this while, in my opinion, as long as you don’t do anything that has conflict of interest with your primary job, then, it should be all right.

    Good article, Lazy Man!


  12. pfoo says:

    it may be unethical – but is it worth it? If your current employer is stupid enough to let you work other jobs, and don’t manage your productivity – isnt that your benefit?

    people dont mind when a company takes advantage of their employees (wich is very common) – but as soon as employees turn the tables – it’s unethical? I dotn think so

  13. 2joblarry says:

    I work two fulltime jobs as a medical technologist. I work midnight shift at a large hospital lab and I get home about 9am. I get up at about 1:30pm and go to my other job at 2:30pm. I do this eighty hours a week. I started doing this after my divorce judge ordered me to pay too much child support. This in returned took me out of my childrens life every day. How do judges think by making dads pay outrageous amounts of child support is going to help the children. Too many children out there without dads in their lives. Take a look at prisons. Most of the men and women in there will say they grew up with out a dad.
    Just wanted to say working two jobs is possible. I will impact your life and health, but it can be done

  14. Schwamie says:

    As a member of the Colorado Army National Guard, I serve in a “volunteer” capacity (that I get paid for) to perform Military Funeral Honors. Fortunately, I work less than 5 minutes from Ft. Logan Veterans Cemetary. As a Captain, I frequently get called to perform honors at odd times during the day. Usually, I am given at least a 24 hour notice. This allows me to coordinate with my boss (a retired Marine First Sergeant) who lets me take “lunch” as needed during the time that the funeral takes place. I am technically off the clock as that is my lunch time. So should this be seen as an issue? I don’t think so as I’m not being paid by my full time job which is buying parts and systems to construct the Orion Shuttle! (Had to throw that in as my geeky side finds that cool!)

  15. Cara says:

    What am I worth?

    I feel like I am in a unique situation. I was hired to do one job, and have been asked to take on an additional “full-time job” in my company. Yes, I am highly productive and can manage working both (although deadlines for the second one are compromised – with their approval & full knowledge.) The HR director did NOT want to pay me extra to do both jobs. My first supervisor (also the CEO) wants to pay me extra. I figure, the company is saving a whole salary & benefits, and I should receive some of that! I agreed to take it on on a trial basis and be able to talk salary at the end of the trial, (in one month from now.) I’m just not sure how to accurately piece together how much I’m worth. We’re a religious non-profit working on pew dollars – I can’t justify asking for the entire second salary – plus, I’d never get it…but I am worth more to them than my initial salary. Any thoughts?

  16. AJ says:

    @ Cara,

    Just ask dear then worry if the will accept or not. If your doing the work then it fare to get some money.

    Just think of a number that you will be happy with, add 30% on it and ask :)

  17. trish says:

    OK I think the problem here is the paid by the hour mentality. We pay you for 8 hours so we own your ass for those hours even if they are not productive. This leads to unproductive employees. The idea of an eight hour work day should be reevaluated. I think goals and objectives should be set for employee and once those are accomplished the rest of the day is theirs. Happy employees are the most productive.

  18. Confused says:

    I’m confused because I am a salaried employee at one place that says we cannot have another salaried position somewhere else. I have dodged this caveat with doing consultant work and hourly contract work but I am now looking at a salaried position. I don’t get how my present employer can prohibit this? Do they have legal grounds?

  19. Yaqut Shah Qureshi says:

    I think it is good to perform many jobs for the improvement of one`s family and country. there are two types of jobs one is the work should be done and the other is how much time you spend on one place doing some job. for the first one it is possible and it is good for both of them.

  20. work is more important than spending hours at your jobs. so doing a lot is good and for the progress of your country and family.

  21. Greg says:

    It is really hard to determine whether its ‘ethical’ to complete work that is not for company X while getting paid by company Y. I guess there is not so much a problem with time, (Salaries paid by the year are for work performed over the year and should be measured as such) but more of a problem with using company property that does not benefit them? Probably better just to explain that you have provided excellent value for money and then walk out of the building. Might be hard sell for a type X manager who wants to squeeze productivity and still thinks that hours measure output.

  22. Oxford says:

    This is an interesting topic, but somewhat simple. If one has an agreement with an employer to work a certain time period during the week then this gives the employer exclusive rights to the person’s time. If the case is that there is no specific hours agreed to work between the employee and the employer then working another job during what we consider 8-5 is okay. The reason I say this is because some salary jobs require employees to work odd hours (not 8-5 each day). So then as long as the employee is not working for a competitor or working another job during the same hours agreed (double billing) then there is no foul. It is usually clear when we have crossed the line. Further this subject can be a matter of individual ethics. If you feel it is wrong, then you should evaluate why the action bothers you. Money is not always the most important factor. You can ask those that have crossed the lines of fuzzy ethics, such as Bernie Madoff, the Enron Clan, and the like.

  23. Tim says:

    I know I am late, but I like this topic. It is important for people to remain productive. I think that only people whose companies offer a lot of down time are the ones who do side work during the day. I take side work just to maintain important skill sets that my employer is not utilizing. If your skills go stale, then your marketability goes down. Besides, we don’t have much time to save our “nest-eggs” I liked the comment that pfoo (12.) gave. It is so true that employers think of us as chattel and discard us when they are finished. We should all think of ourselves as little “businesses”.

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