Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Food ordering and delivery platform Swiggy on Wednesday announced an industry-first moonlighting policy, under which employees can take up external projects pro-bono or even for an economic consideration based on internal approvals.
“This could encompass activity outside of office hours or on weekends that does not impact their productivity on the full-time job or have a conflict of interest with Swiggy’s business in any way,” the company said.
Swiggy’s initiative comes amid companies facing high attrition and demand for more flexibility from employees. But not too many others are likely to give their seal of approval to moonlighting — albeit ethical in this case — as a formalised policy, say recruitment and HR experts as well as companies.
While such a policy does provide more freedom, more opportunity to hone skills as well as a potential additional revenue source that could stem the employee’s urge to move out, there will be significant challenges in monitoring such side hustles as well as chances of conflict arising in the future. A wrong move or breach of trust by one employee could lead to a backlash for the rest.
“There is some experimentation that may happen, some companies may want to play catch up. But a policy like this cannot be extended to all levels, categories and functions. It has to be discretionary,” said Ajit Isaac, chairman at business services provider Quess Corp.
“It’ll take one conflict, one dilution, for a policy to be disapproved,” he added.
Hybrid/remote work during the pandemic has led to a rise in moonlighting among white-collar professionals — particularly in tech/IT companies, ET reported in October.
The moonlighting issue is real, but most companies will look for ways to stop it rather than encourage it, said Shiv Agrawal, managing director of recruitment firm ABC Consultants. “Also, there are very few jobs where the productivity norms are so tightly defined that it’s possible to map exactly how taking on outside work is affecting the actual job.”
While edtech company UpGrad allows employees to teach at various institutes as guest faculty, it is strictly on a case-by-case basis, cofounder Mayank Kumar said. There are no plans to institute it as a policy. “It would be extremely difficult to monitor,” he says.
Chandrika Pasricha, founder of freelance platform Flexing It, said during Covid, there were companies in some sectors like hospitality and travel who relaxed their rules and let employees take on gigs since they weren’t able to fully utilise them during the pandemic. Some of them have since withdrawn the option.
However, there are some small startups, boutique consulting firms and digital marketing agencies which are still letting some employees take up side-projects with their approval. Some bigger companies are also evaluating the option, added Pasricha.
“What it requires is trust in the team and putting in place much clearer deliverables. As long as the work doesn’t suffer, employees can be both effective and happier,” she said.