The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece about a number of workers who found themselves in quite an interesting position. Well, to be specific, two positions actually: these white-collar employees are working two full-time jobs remotely, not telling anyone, and apparently doing just fine with it.
It appears to be more overlaying one job with another than working two gigs back-to-back, as these dual jobholders don’t put in more time at two jobs than many of us put into one. A software engineer who now works full-time for both an events company and a media company said he only logged three to 10 hours of real work per week at a single job. “The rest of it is just attending meetings and pretending to look busy,” he told the Journal.
In addition to not really being all that much extra work, the cash for working two jobs simultaneously seems to be pretty good too. Reporters verified workers’ salary claims by examining employment documents, and found that most were pulling in between $200,000 to $600,000 per year between their two positions. Workers doubling up on full-time jobs were engaged in a variety of industries, including banking, tech, and insurance.
Nothing seems to be actually illegal about this arrangement, although the workers are very careful in juggling their schedules to keep one employer from learning about the other. Even if it doesn’t violate any laws, no one’s under any illusions about what an employer would think if it found out its full-time employee had another full-time job somewhere else and was working both at the same time.
Hell, my full-time employer hates that I even have extracurricular part-time jobs. Never really tried to hide having multiple jobs myself though. I could say that’s because all of my jobs in recent memory involve my name being splashed all over the internet to one degree or another, but actually I just like the attention.
Other than employers hating it though, is there really anything wrong with full-time employees holding down an extra job, even if the jobs overlap? The two-job workers sure don’t seem to think so. Still scarred from the financial crisis, they’ve now been seeing mass layoffs related to COVID-19 while billionaires continue to get richer. In a modern employment environment where workers get little loyalty from large corporations, these dual-job workers don’t feel like they owe all that much to their corporate overlords.
And hey, what the employers don’t know won’t hurt ‘em, right? (Whenever I hear that I always think of Littlefinger from “Game of Thrones” hissing, “A stupid saying — what we don’t know is usually what gets us killed.”) In all seriousness though, the employers would surely argue that they’re each paying for 40 hours of work every week, so that’s exactly what they expect. But who really benefits if a worker does all the work that is required of him or her, and then just makes up pointless tasks to fill the rest of the time? Exactly no one.
I can’t applaud milquetoast shady white-collar employees living the most boring double-lives ever. You have to come from a place of privilege to even have the kind of job that allows you to work another one at the same time without anyone noticing (it is just not going to work out quite as smoothly to jump in and out of Zoom meetings if one of your jobs is as a meatpacking worker on the kill floor). Still, the dually employed do get a few points for outside-the-box thinking, and they are helping to debunk the appeal of the 40-hour workweek, which is a relic of an earlier time that has long-since outlived its usefulness. If workers can do what is required of them in less than 40 hours per week, then they shouldn’t have to pretend that it’s taking them 40 hours per week just to keep their health insurance.
When white-collar remote workers are performing two supposedly full-time jobs at the same time, apparently well enough to not get fired from either, and are putting in less than 40 hours per week doing it, they’re revealing an enormously flawed system. It seems a lot more productive to figure out why the crappy full-time employment system we have allows for this than to cast blame on the folks who took up residence in the system’s cracks.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt-Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a wide variety of publications, and made it both his business and his pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless solely his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the credit anyway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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