The prospect of achieving financial independence, sooner. In 1985, an American man working full-time could afford a middle-class lifestyle consisting of a 3-bedroom home, health insurance, a car, and tuition for two kids at a state university on 40 weeks of income, with 20% left over for savings, vacations, and splurges. The same lifestyle required 62 weeks of income in 2022.3 And with the precariousness of side hustles and gig work, securing full-time employment with multiple companies is just the ticket for many. A creative lead at a tech company more than doubled her income to $200,000 after accepting a second job, which gave her the boost she needed to buy her first home.4 A computer engineer took a second job for the double paternity leave, but is yet to quit despite long hours because of the nearly $500,000 in income he’s raking in.5 A rough analysis from The Wall Street Journal found that a subset of overemployed workers earn between $200k and $600k a year and are using the extra funds to pay down student debt, pump up college savings accounts, and splurge a little.6
Reinventing the salaried job. In January of 2023, Salesforce announced it was laying off 10% of its workforce, or Ohana (family), as their CEO likes to say.7 It’s a phrase that no longer resonates with the thousands of tech workers who’ve grown disenchanted with long hours, low job security, and corporate fealty. Instead, many overemployed seek junior roles as second and third positions, eschewing the need to find meaning from work or status and instead looking for easy money. If the job doesn’t work out, quit and find another — the unattachment is freeing. And there’s no sense of obligation to devote every work hour to a single employer; 65% of workers with multiple jobs perform outside work during primary work hours and 38% even manage to do so when working in-person.8
Avoiding burnout. While counterintuitive, holding multiple jobs can help fight burnout. Some feel a sense of relief knowing they can quit secondary jobs any time they want. One Reddit poster says he was burned out at his first job then got a second job and now feels more productive — plus the clandestine nature of the setup makes him feel exciting and naughty, not to mention flush with cash.9 Picking up a second job can also be a low-risk way to trial a new career or position. One member of the Overemployed Discord community said it should be standard to take paid leave and try out new positions before committing.
Why It Matters
Albeit small — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 236,000 men and 152,000 women work multiple full-time jobs10 (though internet surveys put the number much higher) — this movement cuts across many of the trends we identified in FCAT’s Priorities Report 2023. Overemployment relies on:
Thriving digital communities. As we wrote in April 2023, increased sophistication in the use of digital tools to coordinate group behavior is bringing meaningful connections online. Indeed, without the 271,000 members of Reddit’s r/overemployed; 56,000 members of the Overemployed Discord community; and 16.5 million+ views of #overemployed on TikTok, it probably wouldn’t be the phenomenon it is. In hundreds of messages exchanged daily, community members share tips on time management, job boards, interviewing, and enrolling in two sets of job benefits. They also celebrate wins, like reaching their financial goals, improving work productivity, and evading suspicion. But overemployment is just one example of a movement that lives in digital spaces; those aspiring to financial independence, retire early (FIRE) also find advice and assurance in active digital communities. Indeed, the next financial, work, or social movement will likely be born in a digital community.
Identity masking. As Americans seek to diversify their income, they may also choose to diversify their identity, especially when their alternate work arrangement is secret or risqué. One poster on Reddit claims that she uses different preferred names for each of her four jobs to segregate her identity in the industry. She also blocks all her colleagues on social media sites. Another community member took a different tack by creating a separate LinkedIn profile for each of his two work identities. That way, recruiters can still target him within those industries. He also says the separation creates a compartmentalization of the two jobs in his brain.
Taking control over one’s time. In 2019, about 5% of full-time work was done from home. After ballooning to 60% in early 2020, labor expert Nicholas Bloom predicts that share will stabilize around 25%.11 The shift to remote work freed up millions of hours of locked time; time that could be spent with children, in leisure, and yes, doing more work. But the overemployed refuse to work extra for free; they’re willing to trade their valuable time as long as it comes with an extra salary. And many can perform multiple jobs within a 40-hour work week. Consider: knowledge workers spend only 42% of their time on strategic or skilled work.12 By cutting out unnecessary meetings, administrative tasks, and career development, workers can hone in on only the productive aspects of their multiple jobs and help improve the value of their time spent.
Signals to Watch
New tricks to evade suspicion. Overemployed communities are awash with recommendations for tools like mouse movers, aka ‘jigglers’, which mechanically move one’s computer mouse so that they look active on Teams/Slack or their employer’s activity tracking software. There’s also advice on which keyboards can connect with multiple PCs and how to arrange your desk to accommodate two to four laptops and monitors. And startup Noxx enables companies to hire pseudonymous talent, acting as the payroll middleman. As remote work settles in and more companies monitor employees’ activity (6 in 10 do today)13, expect new tools for masking one’s identity and engagement.
Leaning out of bloated tech teams. Overemployment thrives in an era of easy money when tech teams hire like mad. But last year, U.S. tech companies cut more than 240,000 jobs.14 For those left, productivity will be monitored closely. And developer productivity expectations are likely to rise, as tools like GitHub Copilot promise 55% faster coding.15 If these tools pan out, and stories of engineers putting in 5-10 hours a week continue, look for companies to be even more strict with their tech staffing budgets.
Growing labor market inequality. There’s a big difference between overemployed tech employees raking in $500k+ a year and low wage workers taking on multiple jobs to make ends meet. One remedy to help tackle increasing income polarity is paying workers per project as opposed to full-time salaries. Will concerns about overemployment and labor market inequality fuel the continued rise of independent contracting, especially in remote-capable jobs?
3 Cass, Oren. “2023 Cost-of-Thriving Index.” American Compass, 14 Feb. 2023.
8 "1 in 5 Remote Workers Have 2+ Full-Time Jobs." ResumeBuilder.com.
9 Source: Reddit user Mr__Perfect, posted on 9/29/2022 in r/overemployed.
10 https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t16.htm accessed March 14, 2023.
12 "Asana Anatomy of Work Index 2022: Work about Work Hampering Organizational Agility." Investors.asana.co.
13 Staff, Digital com. "60% of Employers Require Monitoring Software for WFH Workers." Digital.com, 4 Oct. 2021.
15 Raju, Narasimha. "The New GitHub Copilot Helps People Code 55% Faster, Says Shuyin Zhao, of GitHub." CXOToday.com, 9 Mar. 2023.