Six Tell-Tale Signs Your Remote Employee is Working a Second Full-Time Job

February 23, 2022
Stela Gineva

Six Tell-Tale Signs Your Remote Employee is Working a Second Full-Time Job

February 23, 2022
Stela Gineva

A new phenomenon where workers take two full-time jobs and do both simultaneously is emerging. And no, they don’t work eighty hours a week to keep up with the demands of both jobs. Instead, they work forty hours a week across two jobs and aim to stay decidedly average and under–the-radar. In some cases, they deliberately do nothing and wait to get fired as the money keeps rolling in. 

Overemployed, a site that promotes working two jobs, focuses on giving tech workers tips, claiming that layoffs happen in the industry all the time and therefore workers should go on the offensive and get a second job. 

Some double jobbers have decided they aren't stopping at two full-time jobs. One member of the r/overemployed subreddit has admitted to working five full-time roles. The IT worker claims one job pays $4200 per week for him to attend a daily stand-up meeting. He gets no other work done and the company hasn’t caught on yet. He is currently on track to earn $1.2 million dollars this year. That is, if he can keep the jig up. 

Unethical? Time theft? Sure. But members of the overemployed community claim they’re finally playing the game by the same rules as corporate companies. No loyalty, low effort, and a keen eye on the bottom line. 

This isn’t about moonlighting. Data shows around a third of Americans currently have a side-hustle and this number is on an upward trend. Many companies don’t concern themselves about what an employee does in their own time, especially if they’re performing at work. 

But when managing remote-first teams, you don’t have the means to check your staff is working when they should be. Instead, you need to be able to trust your team to complete their work on time and deliver to the standard you expect. If you can’t trust them to do that, then the whole system crumbles. 

So what happens when an employee starts underperforming? Perhaps tasks are taking twice as long as they used to, they aren’t up to their usual standard, and the employee seems genuinely disengaged. 

Perhaps you noticed a new employee seems to be having internet connectivity issues all the time. Or they have a whole tirade of excuses about why they were unable to deliver a piece of work when they were supposed to. 

Could your underperforming employee be working a second full-time job? Here are six tell-tale signs that indicate you’re on the right track. While on their own, they may be completely innocent, put together they may indicate a more serious problem. 

Quiet on social media 

Just hired a new employee? You might be excited to get connected on LinkedIn. But, when you reach out, your connection request goes unanswered. 

A few weeks later, you check to see what happened only to realize they never even bothered to add their new position on LinkedIn. 

Sometimes, they'll add you on LinkedIn to maintain appearances, but won't add their new job at all. When prompted, they'll come up with an excuse.

Of course, they’re not obligated to update their social media. On its own, this isn’t a sign that your employee is working multiple jobs. Many people prefer to keep a low profile on social media and your new hire could well be one of them.

Equally, if an employee that used to be active on social media suddenly goes quiet, they may genuinely be taking a break from social media. 

Or, they could simply be using the social media cleanse excuse to get away with working two jobs. Overemployed advises two-jobbers to keep a low profile on social media by either claiming they’re not active on the platforms or that they’re doing a cleanse and not logging in.

If other signs that something is not quite right start cropping up, the social media silence could well have been your first red flag. 

Missing meetings 

Your employee might not always be able to attend every meeting they’re invited to. They might be finishing off an urgent project, they might have an appointment clash, or they might genuinely have connection problems.

But, if missing meetings is becoming a habit, this could be a cause for concern. For many teams, meetings aren’t just a casual catch-up where colleagues rattle off status updates. Meetings are a way to get work done, decide on a solution to a problem together, or even demo new features. 

Missing multiple meetings could seriously impact a worker’s ability to do a good job.
Yet, among people with multiple jobs, it is a necessity. Sometimes, they decline meetings altogether, other times, they log in to two meetings at the same time, using different devices. 

One worker admitted to doing just that but staying on mute. If he is asked a question in both simultaneously, he drops one call immediately, citing connectivity issues. And while connectivity issues happen, if they are happening regularly, that’s certainly a cause for concern. 

Not answering messages

In the tech industry, in particular, many remote teams are working asynchronously. While the benefits of asynchronous work are numerous, this leaves workplaces wide open to exploitation by double jobbers.

Slack is usually used to communicate information or ask questions that need prompt answers. If your queries are consistently going unanswered for hours at a time, this may be a cause for concern.

Occasionally, your employee will have time blocked off to work on an important task and might not be able to respond right away. But if this is becoming a habit, it's a red flag.

This is especially true if your employee has taken measures to appear active on Slack but does not respond for lengthy periods of time.

Handing in subpar work late 

We all have off days, and sometimes we don’t deliver our best work. But if your new employee is consistently handing in subpar work late, you might start to wonder why, especially if they've had a few months to settle in and learn the ropes.

It’s important not to jump to conclusions. Your employee might be experiencing personal issues or even burnout, so being sensitive is key. 

But you should still provide feedback and work with your employee as you would with any staff member that is lagging behind. 

And, if the trend continues, and is accompanied by some of the other tell-tale signs in this article, you may well have someone working two jobs on your hands. 

Frequently taking sick leave 

This is another sign that, on its own, doesn’t mean much. Your employee may be genuinely ill and that’s all there is to it. If they’re performing as expected the rest of the time, then there is no cause for concern on that front. 

But if your employee has started taking sick leave suddenly and often, you may have cause for alarm. Especially if your employee is underperforming while at work and not even attempting to communicate.  

Sudden shift in work quality

What if you've hired a truly great employee who has been performing above expectations for a while, when things suddenly take a turn?

Your exemplar employee is now handing in assignments riddled with careless errors way past the agreed-upon deadline. They are regularly missing work and always have an excuse; their equipment failed, their internet was down, they have an appointment they can't reschedule...

Technical issues do happen. People have off days. But, as with all of the signs listed here, you should be looking for patterns and trends.

If your previously high-performing employee has had a complete change in work ethic, it's time to have some open and honest conversations about what's going on. This is often hard as they may have built goodwill and trust based on their previous performance.

But even if they have an innocent reason, confronting the issue is the only way you can support them through it.

What can you do if you suspect your employee is working two jobs? 

It’s exceptionally hard to prove that your employee is working two jobs, especially if they’re fully remote. They’re likely to have separate tech setups for each job, and they’re probably a master at juggling multiple projects for different employers. 

So, save for following your company’s disciplinary action that could take months, what could you do if you suspect your employee is underperforming due to having a second job? 

Do a little detective work 

If your employee is working a second job, there are unlikely to be any social media slip ups on their side. Still, it’s worth having a look at their LinkedIn to see if there is any information that suggests they’re working a second job. 

You could also try googling their name, especially if it’s unusual. Their name could come up in press releases or company announcements from other companies announcing their new hires. If the timeline happens to coincide with when they were working for you, you’ve got your proof and can raise the issue with HR. 

Have a frank conversation 

There may be several reasons for your employee’s behavior. But having a frank conversation with them allows them to come clean or voice their concerns.

You can still approach the issue sensitively, of course. Explain that you’ve noticed they haven’t been as focused on their current work and ask if there is anything you can support them with or anything they’d like to share. 

You may be apprehensive about having this discussion remotely. But if nothing untoward is going on, this may be a great opportunity for your employee to take your feedback on board and try to improve. 

Equally, giving them the opportunity to come clean could result in them opening up about an innocuous issue that you weren’t aware of but which explains why they have been unfocused at work. 

If they are acting unethically, they may not wish to share this or may come up with excuses, but at least you have done your due diligence and given them an opportunity to come clean. 

Start managing them actively 

Askamanager suggests that if you strongly suspect an employee is working a second job, you should start managing them actively. This means calling them out often and in front of people if necessary.

In the example addressed in askamanager, the employee in question would often be on mute but would appear to be having a different conversation, would frequently drop off camera, and would be seen looking at other devices, when they were only provided with one laptop for work.

The suggestion was to call them out on it every time it happens and as it happens. Ask for an explanation. Demand their attention. It is certainly a petty way to manage and it will make your employee uncomfortable, but if they are genuinely working for two employers, they will be forced to re-evaluate their decision. 

You could take things even further and ask for daily one-on-one meetings where they provide you with a list of tasks they’ve worked on and the progress they’ve made. 

Active management should help resolve the issue; whether the person in question is working two jobs or has a different reason for performing poorly. 

Discourage double jobbers before you hire them

Dealing with an underperforming employee is always challenging, especially if you strongly suspect they are working two jobs.

But there are ways to discourage double jobbers from joining your company, saving you time and energy.

Make sure you make applicants aware that this is a full-time job with a high performance output. Reiterate this message in the job description and during the interview stage. Explain that the quality and quantity of their work may be benchmarked against peers doing similar work.

This will discourage double jobbers from proceeding with the application process. Double jobbers look for poorly managed organizations where they can put in minimal effort. If you run a tight ship, they're likely to look for an easier target.

Once you've made a hire, follow through. After the initial induction period, benchmark their output against that of their peers. If they're falling behind, that doesn't necessarily mean they're working two jobs. But it is a helpful metric nonetheless, and it helps you take action to support your new employee, whether that's in the form of further training or other projects more suited to their skills.

Is your employee working a second job?

If your employee is staying off LinkedIn, missing meetings and messages, continuously handing in poor work, and underperforming, they could be working a second job. Of course, it is possible that they are simply not a good fit for the job.

There are steps you can take to rectify the issue. For instance, you can do a little detective work, try having a frank conversation, or try managing your employee actively where you call them out when they are displaying signs of inattention. The latter may make them feel uncomfortable but it will force them to speak to you if there are other factors at play, or it will force them to move on if they’re adamant about working a second job. 

Your other option is to go through your company’s disciplinary procedure and quickly. Someone working two jobs while the rest of your team is working hard to pick up the slack is bound to cause friction and a demoralized workforce. 

The important thing to remember is that while remote-first environments can be exploited, there are ways you can catch this behavior out early and address it before it becomes too much of an issue. 

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