Business Standard

Volume IconWhat is moonlighting?

Of late Indian IT firms are grappling with a trend called moonlighting. While most organisations frown upon it, workers seem to be liking it. Let us delve into this debate

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Rishad Premji, Chairman of India’s fourth-largest IT services company Wipro, triggered a debate when he tweeted that moonlighting in the tech industry was “cheating - plain and simple”. 

What is moonlighting

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Moonlighting refers to the practice of holding a second job outside of regular working hours. Most companies in India prohibit staff from taking up additional jobs over concerns like conflicts of interest, job performance, or misuse of an employer’s resources.

Premji’s comments came just days after food-tech startup Swiggy introduced a “moonlighting policy” that allowed its full-time employees to work on external projects for money or pro-bono. This is subject to certain guidelines and restrictions. 

Moonlighting should be outside office hours or on weekends and it must not affect productivity or clash with Swiggy’s business. Swiggy said a significant portion of the working population discovered new hobbies and perhaps even an activity that provides an additional source of income during the Covid-19 lockdowns. The company believes that working on such projects can significantly contribute to both the professional and personal development of an individual.  

Swiggy’s policy reflects a pragmatic recognition of the evolving nature of white-collar jobs, particularly in the dynamic IT and e-commerce sectors, where asymmetric work schedules, like those employed in global back-offices or engineers, leave workers with a lot of free time. This also holds true for those who work set hours or shifts. 

Two years of the pandemic, which enhanced the benefits of work from home for employees, has deepened the trend for moonlighting. A survey of 400 people across the IT and ITeS space by Kotak Institutional Equities in July revealed that an astounding 65% of the respondents knew of people pursuing part-time opportunities or moonlighting while working from home.

This is also scuttling the back-to-office plans of companies. In the Kotak survey, 42% of the respondents said they would consider changing their jobs if they were not allowed to work from home.

There was a case of an IT employee found to be working for seven companies at the same time. He was caught when the HR managers at one of the firms found multiple active PF accounts in the employee’s name.  

Why are IT firms against moonlighting?
Many business leaders concur with Rishad Premji’s view on moonlighting. Their concerns revolve around conflict of interest with regard to the employee working for a competition or divulging sensitive or proprietary information. Further, companies also worry about loss of productivity at the primary job if the employee overworks himself. Companies also don’t appreciate employees making use of company time and material like laptops or software for their side gigs. 

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First Published: Aug 23 2022 | 7:00 AM IST

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