An Ode to Moonlighting, Sunlighting, and All Kinds of Lighting To Keep Your House Lit

Employee Mental Health Office Joke

If you aren’t yet aware of the term “Moonlighting,” here’s the definition – it’s you working for another company once your regular day job is over. Lately, many CEOs in India are losing their cool over their employees moonlighting. They feel cheated because they want their subordinates to function at their best capacity during day time. Yes, it’s mostly the CEOs and the high-level management already receiving big paychecks who are vociferously campaigning against moonlighting. Any surprises there?

I can’t help but think, why would companies want to micromanage the after-work life of an employee? The office in itself is a breeding ground for micromanagement. If the employee’s daily work is suffering because of the extra responsibility they took up, yes, they should face the consequences. Quality of work shouldn’t be compromised. But in companies like Wipro, employees aren’t getting sacked because of their work quality – it’s purely for the reason that their employers found out their “dirty” little secret. Employees should be warned if their quality of work is far below expectations – whatever reason it may be – moonlighting, sunlighting, or rainlighting. But snooping around to see which employee works secretly to earn an additional income is downright obnoxious and toxic.

Some founders and CEOs are partners in multiple firms but do not face the consequences. The culprit is always the layman trying to earn those few extra bucks. Money and power rule the world. This universal truth holds even here.

The empathetic approach would have been to ask the moonlighting employees at Wipro how much they would need to stop working two jobs. This wish is idealistic since companies would be unwilling to pay that much. The companies want to have the cake and eat it too. They will do bad (paying low) but do not want the bad consequences (employees looking for better opportunities).

Let’s look at the positives of moonlighting (if done correctly):

  • The employee gets additional income.
  • A creative person needs an outlet. A second job that fulfills this criterion can boost such an employee’s spirit. It would make them happy to continue the daily grind the following day, even if the current job is not fulfilling those creative needs.
  • Employees will not be frustrated that their company is unwilling to pay extra. Frustration and financial stress can deteriorate work performance more than moonlighting.
  • A company that accepts its employees’ needs will earn a good reputation overall. Its employees would be willing to work much harder for them.

The cons of moonlighting:

  • If done incorrectly, i.e., the employee doesn’t get enough time to rest, the quality of work can suffer in both jobs. This is something that can easily be corrected, however. Balance is key.
  • The high-level management. I am unsure whether the big bosses will ever come to terms with it. It might be because they are overthinking it. It’s only recently that companies have deviated from the usual archaic work style and are embracing the digital. Previously, the high-level management used to overthink work from home because they were worried if work would ever get done. But covid taught everyone that it is possible to complete their work at home by leveraging the power of the internet.

On this world mental health week, let’s hope our employers reflect on what an employee’s mental well-being actually means to them. Does it mean cutting off their freedom? Does it mean micromanagement? It’s certainly not free yoga classes or an unlimited amount of eatables. “A happy wife makes a happy life” is a famous adage. In the case of organizations, “A happy employee makes a happy company” would be apt.

Maybe it’s high time our companies stop being preachy and finally walk the talk. Sometimes we need more than just freebies.

Update as of 18th October: TCS has been the most empathetic so far. To quote the COO, “The consequences (of taking action) will be that the person’s career will be ruined. Background check for the next future job will fail for him…We have to show some empathy.” Kudos to them for pointing this out.

Update as of 21st October: Employees at Infosys are now allowed to take up external gigs under some conditions. Better something than nothing!