When I managed teams, the term for working on the side was “mumbling”. Staff mumbled into their phone, hoping nobody realised they were working for someone else on company time.
Years later mumbling morphed into “moonlighting” and became more respectable. There are 4.6 million moonlighters (professionals with a primary traditional job who freelance on the side) in the United States, the latest Freelancing in America survey estimates.
Moonlighting then became a “side hustle”, where full-time workers took on freelance work, started a micro-venture or devoted time to a cause they were passionate about.
Mumbling, moonlighting and side hustles imply something dodgy about the work: full-time employees going behind their boss’s back to earn supplemental income or build a venture into which they can transition. Or professionals who are not committed to their full-time role.
Thankfully, the concept is starting to be referred to as “hybrid entrepreneurship” and a debate is building overseas on the merits of combining full-time work with freelance roles or micro-ventures. The debate has implications for government policy and venture creation.
Combining a full-time role with freelance work or starting a venture sounds good in theory. Done well, you earn extra income and have much-needed wage growth. You do something different to break the workplace monotony or pursue other career passions.
Better still, you use full-time work to fund your venture and reduce risk. When the venture can pay a full-time wage, you quit your job and move to an established business.
In practice, many employers still take a dim view of working on the side. Imagine telling your boss you want to move from five to four days a week so you can work for other companies or start a venture to move to?
Your boss thinks a) you are not committed to the company, b) planning to leave, c) there are potential conflicts if you work for other firms, or d) does not like you earning extra income or starting a venture. Perhaps all of them.
Granted, more firms have an enlightened view to hybrid entrepreneurship these days. They like the idea of saving wages if you drop back a day, or want to offer greater workplace flexibility to attract top talent. They know younger staff might want to launch startups on the side.
But hybrid entrepreneurship is limited in most firms. It is one thing to let a mid-ranking employee work four days so they can do part-time work elsewhere, and another to agree to a star employee working for someone else or launching a venture they will eventually move into.
I suspect hybrid entrepreneurship will become a bigger issue for employees, corporates and governments in next decade. In the gig economy more people will combine multiple forms of work – freelance and part-time, corporate employment and self-employment. Lots of full-time employees will need side jobs to make ends meet and create wealth.
Professor Alex Maritz of La Trobe University believes governments should champion hybrid entrepreneurship though tax incentives and other policy initiatives. “Making it easier for people to combine full-time work with starting a venture would grow the number of early-stage entrepreneurs in Australia and strengthen their entrepreneurship capability.”
Maritz, a noted entrepreneurship researcher, believes starting a venture while in full-time or part-time employment can increase the founder’s capacity to fund the business, reduce risk because the founder is still earning a wage, and help them learn vital entrepreneurship skills.
“European governments are showing interest in hybrid entrepreneurship because they know the lines between full-time work and self-employment are blurring,” says Maritz. “We need policy in Australia that incentivises people to combine a corporate job with starting a new venture if that is their passion.”
Much will need to change before hybrid entrepreneurship is accepted in Australia.
Much will need to change before hybrid entrepreneurship is accepted in Australia. More employers will need to loosen the reins on who employees can work for and have a practical approach around potential conflicts of interest.
Employees will need to give their full-time work the priority it deserves and not take advantage of their firm as they start a venture or working part-time for somebody else. Those who deceive their boss or do side work on company time, deserve all they get if found out.
The complications are manageable. It just takes foresight to say, how can we turn moonlighting and side hustles into something more respectable, accepted and permanent? Something that creates shared value for employees, firms, the economy and community.
It is far better for companies to lead hybrid entrepreneurship rather than be caught out by mumblers, moonlighters and side hustlers who feel as if they have to avoid detection.
Source: Thanks smh.com