How companies can curb moonlighting

The pandemic has caused a seismic shift in the way organisations work, spanning from the tangible technical aspects to the intangible aspects of enabling a conducive work environment. The latter holds even when working remotely.

Many organisations have relooked at day-to-day operations, and as they encourage employees to head back to office or follow a hybrid model in the ‘new normal’, issues such as ‘moonlighting’ – holding one or more jobs during the course of regular employment – have started surfacing. Instances of professionals enjoying the perks of dual employment are brewing across many sectors, especially the technology sector.

We are all walking a tightrope with ample room for controls, compliance and governance frameworks to evolve. The pre-pandemic and post-pandemic controls, however, need to be different. If the controls do not change, they can inadvertently cause loopholes resulting in problematic dual employment. An increasing number of employees exploring opportunities outside of their traditional working hours or employment terms has made moonlighting a common phenomenon across industries.

The absence of a specific provision to curtail dual employment in India adds to the issue, as the mandate is only applicable to workpersons and not to working professionals. There is a healthy debate taking place in the industry on whether or not to permit this activity. Every organisation has a code of business conduct, and it’s crucial to educate employees on the dos and don’ts.

Moonlighting has a very evident and apparent causal relationship with innate lapse in controls, policies and frameworks of an organisation. The traditional role of forensic professionals in an organisation is constantly evolving. It is also challenged at every stage of the employment life cycle. From addressing issues reactively, it’s important for organisations to move to adopt a more proactive approach in tackling these challenges. Here, forensic professionals can play a key role in helping them identify issues in real time, rather than post facto.

There are certain indicators of moonlighting that often breed possible scenarios related to employee performance. These include avoiding in-person meetings, increased requests to work from home (WFH), leaving important virtual meetings unannounced and resistance towards periodic shift rotations.

To curb this growing issue of dual/multiple employment, companies must be proactive in their outlook and subsequently in enforcing their measures. A sophisticated blend of workforce analytics tools and a comprehensive anti-moonlighting framework can yield better and improved results.

Companies must ensure that there is periodic and real-time collection and assessment of crucial data points like idle time, machine active time and significant time being spent on websites with the use of workforce analytics. Something as simple as tracking WFH requests, change in shift timings, mandatory trainings and learnings should be monitored. Creating a controlled environment for regularised trainings for managers on moonlighting and modes to report them to human resources (HR) should be in place. There are tools available to identify moonlighting using public source databases and social media analytics. The only way to address this issue is by leveraging technology.

Moonlighting is increasingly prevalent in the IT industry and has caused organisations to combat it head on, as the latest case of mass firing in Wipro attests. There is a growing industry consensus that says that there is loss of revenue, potential conflicts of interest and integrity issues with the workforce. In addition, moonlighting also causes potential health and safety issues that need to be addressed by organisations.

The need of the hour is for companies to think strategically, use technology to identify lapses proactively, and communicate the dos and don’ts to employees to avoid confusion about what is right and what is wrong.