Employee Engagement

Feeling the economic pinch, younger workers take second jobs

It’s up to HR departments to decide if, and how, they limit the practice of moonlighting.
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Cameron Abbas

3 min read

An increasing number of Gen Zers and millennials are worried about their finances and taking on second jobs to boost their income, according to new research from Deloitte.

Financial stress, second jobs. The findings draw from a 2023 survey of more than 22,000 Gen Zers and millennials around the world. Each group cited the high cost of living as its “top societal concern.” High prices were a “major worry” for 35% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials, up six points for both groups from last year.

Half of Gen Zers and millennials reported living paycheck to paycheck, a five-point increase for both generations since 2022. Also, a higher share of Gen Zers (46%) and millennials (37%) reported taking on a side job in addition to their primary employment. The main reason both groups gave for doing so was needing an additional source of income.

“A lot of these jobs, not surprisingly, are jobs that they can leverage technology and social media platforms to fulfill,” Michele Parmelee, a global people and purpose leader at Deloitte who worked on the research, told HR Brew. Popular side jobs included selling products or services online, as well as gig work such as food delivery or ride-sharing.

Crafting policies around side jobs. Though it’s no surprise workers are turning to second jobs in response to financial stress, it falls to HR departments to decide if, and how, to address the practice.

While many states allow employers to prohibit their workers from taking a second job—a practice that’s often called “moonlighting”—it’s important to stay informed about any changes in legislation, Sara Jensen, SVP of growth and strategy at Innovative Employee Solutions, which provides workforce solutions for companies with remote and contingent workers, told us. California, for example, doesn’t allow employers to restrict this practice, though there are some exceptions, such as if the second job directly conflicts with the company’s work. Washington, DC, and Washington State have similar laws in place.

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Employers who don’t already have a moonlighting policy should consider the implications of a hard-line stance for talent and recruitment, as well as workers’ economic security, Jensen said.

Even if companies don’t strictly prohibit employees from taking a job, it’s helpful to establish parameters for doing so, she added. An employer may want to restrict employees from using their laptops for business outside the company, for example, or set clear expectations around their hours of work. Jensen also recommended using a performance management process to communicate with employees about their progress at work.

“If someone is performing at the level they’re being hired to perform at, then there really most likely isn’t a cause for concern, as long as they’re also following the other procedures,” she said.

Focus on growth. If employers are concerned their employees are increasingly taking on second jobs, they can consider investing more in learning and development, so employees see a pathway for growth inside the organization, Parmelee said. Another reason Gen Zers and millennials surveyed by Deloitte said they took second jobs was to “develop important skills and relationships”—which points to a potential void not filled by their primary employer.

“Helping people understand how to network and move around, and the benefits associated with that in an organization, is really important, particularly for these younger generations,” Parmelee said.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.