USA: Those who leverage full remote to work more than one job

USA: Those who leverage full remote to work more than one job

In the United States, fully remote work has been a part of many businesses for nearly two years. And whether employers like it or not, one thing is certain: the pandemic radically changed the way Americans work. Generation Z has come of age in the time of fully remote work. Born between 1995 and 2010, members of this demographic aren’t very attached to the idea of office culture. Millennials, meanwhile, were likely already established in their careers when the pandemic hit. Along with Gen Z, they have led an unprecedented shift in the American workplace known as the “Great Resignation.” At the same time, a new phenomenon has emerged alongside all the upheaval: the trend of working two full-time jobs remotely. Now that the “bums in seats” mentality is in decline, many people are cashing in on the telecommuting trend. With more free time than ever, they’re taking on extra work and earning two salaries, while their employers are none the wiser. Here’s our report on going fully remote with two jobs.

At 38 years old, Isaac has kept busy during the pandemic from the peaceful confines of his San Francisco home. Since April 2020, he’s taken advantage of telecommuting and flexible home office hours to work a second job on the sly. And he set up a platform for other like-minded professionals. Launched in 2021, his site Overemployed.comwelcomes adventurous professionals looking to work several remote jobs simultaneously. Unsurprisingly, it’s been a huge success, with over 6,705 members and counting. “Some people want to diversify their sources of income and earn more money,” he said. “Others are disillusioned with their employers. Bitter about a lack of raises or promotions, they’re regaining control of their lives by working two jobs.”

In an April 2020 study, 50% of Americans admitted to having worked for a second employer during their remote working hours. This figure is particularly high among men and millennials. Many Americans relish the sense of freedom that comes with telecommuting, away from the prying eyes of colleagues and constant monitoring by managers. Among those surveyed, 24% admitted to spending less than four hours a day on their actual work. This number was higher among men (25%) and Generation Z (31%). These findings might explain why many Americans have more free time to spend on pursuing other professional projects.

A trend among young, ambitious tech and finance professionals

In the United States, the overworking phenomenon isn’t new. For decades, low-income employees have been forced to work multiple casual or part-time jobs just to make ends meet. But the trend of working two full-time jobs that emerged during the pandemic is obviously different. This style of overworking involves young, ambitious tech and finance professionals who are ready to capitalize on the dwindling importance of working from an office. This past October, the global consultancy and auditing giant PwC announced that its 40,000 American employees can now work fully remote permanently. And on October 11, Amazon also announced that engineers and all staff working at its headquarters could work remotely full-time. Meanwhile, other tech giants are also considering a shift to this working model.

But quite understandably, going fully remote is cause for concern at some companies. After delaying the reopening of its offices for the third time this year, Rob Falzon, the vice president of insurance company Prudential Financial Inc. told the Wall Street Journal in August 2021: “What worries me most is the risk that employees may become less loyal to their employers if they work from home for too long. Now, it’s easier for them to go elsewhere.”Vanessa Burbano, Professor of Management at Columbia Business School, agrees. Today’s employees feel that they have a certain degree of freedom. After months away from the office, where workers forged deeper relationships with colleagues and identified more with their companies, many staff feel increasingly disconnected from their employer, Burbano told the newspaper.

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A question of loyalty towards employers

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the world of work has become increasingly precarious. But mass redundancies during the first lockdowns, a lack of loyalty shown by large companies towards their employees, and the fact that American billionaires were still able to increase their fortunes despite it all have made some people want to play the system.

This was the case for Isaac. In the United States, dismissals without notice, offshoring, job insecurity, stagnating salaries, declining purchasing power, and price inflation are endemic. Today, Americans earning $100,000 per year are considered middle class and often live from paycheck to paycheck. Isaac wanted to regain control by encouraging professionals like him to juggle jobs as a way of achieving a certain degree of financial freedom.

Isaac said that, for members of the Overemployed.com community, “Income is not distributed fairly. So, holding two jobs at the same time is a way of ‘giving the middle finger’ to American companies.” Lirim, a sales representative and site member, confirms this mindset. “People aren’t paid enough at one job, so we have to consider an alternative way of working. CEOs pocket exorbitant sums, while others earn just enough to get by. Most employers expect us to put in 110% while paying us a mere fraction of what we’re really worth,” said Lirim.

Kevin, a 29-year-old software developer, has another reason for working two full-time jobs. He was motivated by a genuine interest in exploring new avenues.“I’ve been working for a media and events company since June 2020, and for me, it’s like two jobs in one,” he said. When I had one job, I was only working a maximum of ten hours a week. The rest of the time I either spent in meetings or pretending to be busy. Thanks to the Overemployed.com website, I was able to begin a new adventure.”

Sami, a data scientist who had long felt unchallenged in his job at a large bank, was also bored at the office. “It just felt like I wasn’t doing anything,” he said. He was interested in taking on some freelance work to spice things up but found it impossible when stuck at the office with curious colleagues. So, when the pandemic made telecommuting possible in March 2020, he seized his chance and began working remotely for three other companies. He now works almost 100 hours a week, with the majority of time devoted to his initial employer. Some time ago, his manager became suspicious, asking him to work harder. But for Sami, there’s no undoing the deep disillusionment he feels. *“People have no incentive to be open with their bosses because loyalty and trust between employer and employee no longer exists,”* he said.

‘I’m saving up today so that I can have a stress-free life tomorrow.’

Isaac began looking for a new job when he heard there would be mass layoffs at his company due to the health crisis. In April 2020, he landed a new job but had a tough decision to make. “Faced with the uncertainty of the crisis, I decided to stay in my old job while starting the new one,” he said. “At first, I thought it would just be for one month. But as time went on, I started thinking it might be a good idea to keep going like this for a bit longer. If I ever got fired because of the pandemic, I could at least keep all my benefits.” But Isaac was never fired from his first job, and working two jobs gave him an extra $300,000 by the end of 2020.

Isaac isn’t the only one to benefit from the current climate. Many professionals who worked two fully remote jobs reported earning between $200,000 and $600,000 in 2020 and 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal. In other words, people made twice as much as they would have earned staying in only one role.

Despite the financial perks, however, Isaac isn’t planning on working this way forever: “I’m saving the majority of my earnings today so that I can have financial freedom and a stress-free life tomorrow. By my calculations, if I continue on this path for another five years, I’ll only need to work 20-25 hours a week on projects I enjoy to maintain a decent standard of living,” Isaac said.

Kevin, the software developer, said: “I’m making loads now, but I wake up every day worried that my employer is going to find me out.” According to employment lawyers, this approach isn’t breaking any laws. But it can generate confidentiality issues that may someday get you fired.

Working both sides

To avoid arousing any suspicions – and thus getting yourself fired – it’s important to be as discreet and efficient as possible. Overemployed.com gives members an opportunity to share tips on how not to get caught. Isaac, the website’s founder, regularly publishes articles and newsletters such as “12 rules for working two remote jobs.” Sami, the data scientist, remembers the day his boss nearly caught him in the middle of a video call, teaching a coding course that he was doing alongside his regular job. Thinking fast, he announced a ten-minute break to the virtual class so that he could take his boss’s surprise call. And for anyone who finds themselves in a similar bind, Overemployed.com has a long list of credible excuses. Sami said, “I’m not trying to be the world’s best employee. I’m just doing the minimum required to avoid getting fired.”

In 2017, two management professors from the University of North Carolina and George Mason Universitydemonstrated how juggling two jobs could have a positive impact on your mental well-being as well. According to Professor Brianna Caza, “The people we interviewed showed greater passion and authenticity at work. They tend to take ownership of their situation. As many feel they were living and expressing themselves authentically, they are thriving professionally because they have a variety of tasks and assignments.” Her colleague Heather C Vough agrees. “I think the number of people working two jobs will increase steadily in the coming years,” she said. “Even after the pandemic, many people will continue working remotely, which gives them time for other activities.”

— some names have been changed

Translated by: Andrea Schwam

Photo by Welcome to the Jungle

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