Having two jobs is great for employers.

Posted on under Today's research

Increasingly low-paid part-time and gig-work is all that is being offered and robots and digitization take over more and more of the work that businesses need done (see story in Friday’s New York Times). Many workers are happy with this as it gives them more time and choice of if or when to work. Others are trapped having to do more than one or even two jobs to make ends meet.

Happily for employers research shows that those with two or more jobs perform as well as single jobholders. But the result for employees is that this often leads to increased work-family conflict.

What the researchers say: People who hold two jobs demonstrate as much engagement and performance in the workplace as their colleagues who have one job. However, dual job holders are likely to sacrifice family and personal time as a result. These are the findings of a new study in the Journal of Business and Psychology which challenges the commonly-held notion that people who “moonlight” are not as focused or dedicated as those with only one job.

Recent estimates suggest more than 7.2 million Americans work two or more jobs at once. These “moonlighters” work an average of 46.8 hours per week, compared to the average American employee who works 38.6 hours per week. A typical example of a dual jobholder is a teacher who works as a bartender during the evenings or weekends in order to supplement his income. Other dual jobholders work in a second job to gain work experience in a new field for future career development.

To test the hypotheses that moonlighters are likely to be tired, devoid of energy and lack commitment to their jobs, the researchers conducted two studies. The first study compared the level of work engagement of dual jobholders towards their primary and secondary jobs. The second study used a sample of teachers and bartenders to compare the work behavior and attitudes of single and dual jobholders.

Both studies found that people who have two jobs do not prioritize one job over the other. Dual jobholders were equally committed as an employee of both establishments, and to helping their co-workers. In fact, dual jobholders demonstrated the same high levels of work engagement and job performance at both their primary and secondary jobs. They performed as adequately as their single jobholding counterparts and were not more strongly involved in one job to the detriment of the other.

However, both experiments showed that having two jobs may contribute to higher levels of work-family conflict, especially due to the time that dual jobholders spend away from their homes. This level of work-family conflict tends to be significantly more compared to that experienced by single jobholders.

“Although dual jobholders do not appear to be hurting the organizations in which they work, they may instead be hurting their lives outside of work,” explains the lead author.

According to the research team, the results from this study show that there is no real need for unions or governments to enact policies that prevent people from taking on a second job.

“However, given the negative, personal effects of holding two jobs and the impact it has on work-family conflict, organizations may be inclined to enact policies that help dual jobholders strike a healthy balance between work life and home life,” the researchers add.

So, what? In the many years that I have advised and worked with corporations and firms throughout the world I have met very few people who actually wanted to have more than one job. I have met many who have been forced to have more than one and their home life nearly always suffered.

The truth is that our glutamate system—the energy driver of the brain—only has so much capacity. Once we have exhausted that—or run it low—we are forced to make choices which will conserve our energy. We may take our lowered glutamate out on those who report to us through bullying, we may neglect our families. We have in fact been forced to make a choice between the relationship with them and the safety we get through our income-producing activities.

This will become more and more the case as people are forced into low-paying or part-time and low-paying jobs. We will not be able to prevent our relationships outside work—and often within the workplace—will suffer. We will become more anxious and depressed as our stress level increases and this, too, will be taken out on the most vulnerable in our relational circle. In the words of Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman: “…the protracted economic weakness that followed the financial crisis is still casting a shadow on labor markets despite low unemployment today.”

What now? Perhaps until we can decide how we will cope with a future where work is not a normal part of the human condition we should call a halt to digitization, robotization and Uberization. Maybe I’m just dreaming, but it’s surely worth a try?