The Benefit of Employee Side-Hustles

Updated: Feb 24

Following our passion and balancing our financial needs isn't always straightforward. Today, we are seeing the rise of side-hustles while people are working full-time jobs. While the data is out there, that millions of employees are not engaged, the status quo of many workplace cultures remain. Leaders unwilling to embrace the change needed to engage their workforce are upset when they discover successful side-hustlers and side-hustlers are left fearing for a sense of purpose as they face the reality of needing full-time employment to survive. The imbalance in our modern culture with existing employment models is challenging for both dedicated employees and employers. This article will offer some holistic advice to build a more innovative, entrepreneurial, and engaging workplace that encourages the full potential of employees, side-hustle or not.

First, let's start with two important definitions...

Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

Employee: a person employed for wages or salary, especially at non-executive level.

Why People Side-Hustle

Countries around the world have a different view on work-life balance, with America leading the way in productivity. Despite our country's economic power, America also has a high percentage of employees who are not engaged with their work, and many more trying to squeeze out some passion outside of their 9 to 5 in soul filling side-hustles.

Americans, today, are working more hours than ever before despite advances in technology that offer solutions claiming to make the work experience better. From a cultural standpoint, Americans have believed in the ideology that hard work produces results, and rightfully so, as this belief system made us number one in capitalism. Unfortunately, the benefits of capitalism in our Wall Street focused society does not lend itself to a nation of happiness for the average citizen, as outlined in the World Happiness Report.

Given the ecosystem within America today, healthcare is a tremendous burden for entrepreneurs combined with student loan payments that must be paid and rising costs across retail, home ownership, food, and basic services. Making it in America isn't as simple as the rhetoric of the American Dream spells out. To make it, one must have a reliable source of income to build upon for future success and that's where a job comes in handy.

Given the ease of seeing how others live via social media stories across the world, entrepreneurship is found in local shops, street food vendors, small businesses, regional chains, and more. Beyond entrepreneurial opportunities abroad, other countries support corporate employees with two hour lunch breaks, afternoon naps to recharge, holiday time of one month, and expanded parental leave to bond with their newborn.

Traveling the globe, one begins to question the standard two-week vacation in America and our culture that sends dads right back to work after delivering their newborn to keep the economic engine churning. Like it or not, if you were born into the American Dream, you were born to work hard, at least by the system that's still in place today.

Given America's innovative spirit and focus on big data, it's interesting to look at the data outlining rising rates of depression, isolation, and a decrease in happiness while we fail to innovate what work means and the environment in which adults spend the majority of their waking hours. Worse, we tend to shift the focus off of the ability to evolve our culture poking fun at other countries who take mid-day naps as economically inferior.

In the traditional American business model, employers focus on productivity instead of purpose.

Employees sit in offices because full-time employment is defined by punching the clock for 40 hours even when employers know their employees have nothing productive to do. Yes, employees spend work time surfing the web and doing other things because they are filling a hole in a work environment that is focused on productivity over purpose while waiting for their boss to let them out at 4 p.m. on a Friday, as a treat for a job well done. Don't believe it or don't want to believe it? Checkout this survey that states the harsh facts -

Of the top six reasons why employees waste time at work, being underpaid ranked dead last at 18 percent. Most employees -- 35 percent -- said they waste time at work because they're not challenged enough. Following closely, 34 percent of employees claimed they waste time because their hours are too long; 32 percent believe their company gives them no incentive to work harder; 30 percent are simply unsatisfied. Additionally, 23 percent of respondents said they waste time at work simply because they're bored.

Employers, it's time to wake up and quit patting yourself on the back for giving people a job, when a job is clearly not what the next-generation of American workers is looking for.

After reading the facts, is it any wonder why Americans are trying to find purpose through side-hustles?

Purpose needs to be the driver for our work today.

When we work with purpose, we can work well into the night, rise early when the creative process flows, and get things done in record time. Purpose fills a person's spirit, it creates a sense of engagement, and it produces better results than having employees sitting in an office watching the clock pass by because our employment model requires 40 hours of work to get a decent paycheck and health benefits.

While not every role qualifies under this article given the nature of the need to do certain jobs like nursing or manufacturing assembly lines, a large majority of office jobs and professional services jobs can evolve if we start to imagine the culture we are capable of achieving.

To create change, you have to first imagine the change and desired outcomes.

Imagine a workplace where you free yourself from the American ethos of hard work and where you subscribe to the ethos of smart work. What does working smarter look like within your company?

Imagine a workplace where you can recharge mid-day to keep working on a project you find passion in and one that requires the right amount of concentration outside of limiting work hours. What does a culture of understanding human performance, health, wellness, and peak mental states look like for your organization and the products produced?

Imagine a workplace where you encourage personal growth, international travel, and other time off because you know the ROI it will have in building a more inclusive, happy, and energized team. What does a curious, culturally informed, and globally minded workplace look like within your company?

Purpose frees us of cultures that are focused on productivity. Productivity is elevated when we have a stronger sense of purpose and an understanding of knowing why we are doing what we are doing.

While employers can monitor every detail of their employees lives out of a fear based management mindset, they also have the choice to understand who their employees are and that the American workplace is long overdue for a holistic approach to supporting employee growth.

The work environment is a leadership choice.

Leaders can choose to uphold the value of hard work and the traditional employment model that is making American workers figure out side-hustles, freelancing gigs abroad, and alternatives to being enslaved behind the confines of a cubicle or they can innovate to understand the bigger picture of what it means to be human and what humans truly want to feel alive in a first world economy with this much wealth.

A Human Focused Work Environment

When people shop for jobs, they are looking for a better boss, better culture, and better understanding by the employer of who they are as a person and their unique value outside of being a number. Simply put, they are looking for an environment that uplifts their spirit and supports their evolution through life's journey - professionally, personally, spiritually.

When employees start a side-hustle, they may do it for fun, to fill a purpose or passion, or build their American entrepreneurial dream in due time. In most cases, it is part of who they are and a piece of their human journey that includes a healthy dose of self-discovery.

Positive work environments allow the exploration of the whole person and support the whole person.

Smart employers take notice of their talent and find ways to harness their talent's energy into meaningful work instead of terminating them or trying to shut people down.

Let's look at the following scenario that can go one of two ways.

Scenario: An employee is spending two hours per week on social media sites. They are producing outstanding content that is generating massive attention within your organization. In fact, you wonder why they are getting better results on their own social media pages than the people in defined social media roles within your company, a company that has a lot of reach.

What do you do...

A. Get incredibly curious about this employee and take them out to lunch to talk about who they are, how they learned to generate engagement on social media, and what tips they have for your company...while thinking in your mind on ways you can engage this person with the existing marketing team to grow your brand.

B. Pull them into your office with HR, read them the riot act, pull out the social media policy, tell them they are doing personal work on company time, and given them a written warning or possibly terminate them because you can.

I can guarantee that if you choose option B. you need to look at yourself and why you are tied to outdated beliefs that use fear over optimism. You'll also be searching for that amazing candidate wasting more time instead of building up someone who is great within.

If you are rooted in fear based management models and hiring consultants to fix your culture, let me offer some FREE advice...

Quit looking outside your organization for expensive consultants and start looking within, because the talent you are seeking may be right in front of you if you are brave enough to let them do something outside of their defined job description.

Raising the topic of social media, companies today need to have clearly defined social media policies and I'm not talking about ones that essentially limit free speech or diverse perspectives, aka corporate censorship. I am talking about a realistic social media policy that explains your concerns, how someone with a company logo in their LinkedIn profile or a company name tied to their Facebook account might be perceived as an official spokesperson, and tips to manage the right of free speech under our constitution and the right of an employer controlling their brand's reputation.

During the interview process, you can also ask people about their passion, what the coolest project is they've worked on, what their ideal life looks like and why they think working at your company will be a good fit.

If candidates have clarity as to why they have a side-hustle, that clarity can also benefit your organization if you know how to harness it and if you have a more fluid culture where the goal is about the desired outcome and not upholding titles within an organization.

While your side-hustling employee might be searching for something more, you can offer them the right dose of creativity in any role. Manage time wisely, work with a sense of purpose, and enjoy that hard earned time off to be who you really are when that necktie comes off.

The Employee-Employer Side-Hustle Checklist

To ensure you and your talented employee are aligned, use my checklist to avoid the case of misinterpreted intentions and to understand how you have more alignment by working together.

1. Talk about the purpose of your company and ask the employee how they view their purpose being in alignment with the organization. Look for sparks of interest.

2. If you hire bloggers or creatives, understand this is who they are. If there is not enough creative juice within your company, they will find an outlet to create. Talk about expectations on social media use, public figure profiles, and how what they've created works into what your organization has created. What are some areas to collaborate and grow together?

3. Have a culture of transparency where side-hustles are supported. For example: you have a co-worker who is selling hand soap online and doing well. Go ahead and take a month to feature their hand soap in your office supporting their side-hustle. This builds trust and it builds loyalty because you are working in a realistic framework, a reality that realizes hand soap sales may provide some income, but not hardly enough for your talented team member to walk away from their job.

4. Ensure there are no conflicts of interest. Most side-hustles do not present a conflict of interest if you really examine them. People have the right to create other ventures to boost their economic success in a country that values capitalism. Quit stressing that your employees are out to get you and build a smart legal framework of what conflicts look like and how to self-disclose ventures for a conflicts check.

5. Go beyond pay if you want to retain great people. Today, employees are getting smarter. They know that a 401k is not enough and for some employees in urban environments, the reality is they cannot put enough money away for their futures given rising expenses. If your company employs people with graduate degrees, odds are those people are working humbly with a load of student loan debt that needs to be payed off. Since the academic model and business model work hand-in-hand requiring degrees that have questionable ROIs, help your talent reduce the debt that they had to take on to get an interview in the first place. If your company truly values your people, think about the lives of family members by expanding paternal leaves so parents can bond with their children. Ditch the corporate acrylic plaques that cost money and take someone to their favorite lunch with a fun round table of how they've made an impact on each team member's life.

The point is, people show up for a paycheck and they stay when they feel they are serving in a role that is aligned with a greater sense of purpose.

Hopefully this article has given you some insight into why people choose side-hustles and how you can create a better organization that uplifts the human spirit one day at a time.

Make work fun, make it engaging, and make it something that truly supports the whole person.

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© 2019 by Drew Aversa