Moonlighting fair or foul? Debate rages on

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The debate on moonlighting is getting intense in Indian IT industry.

The debate on moonlighting is getting intense in Indian IT industry. Moonlighting, which means having a second job with a regular one beyond the knowledge of the employer, has seen a rise among staffers of domestic IT industry during the Covid pandemic. Widespread prevalence of work from home (WFH) option is one of the primary reasons for such phenomenon.

As IT engineers operate from home without the supervision of superiors, such remote working helps them work on some outside projects beyond their office hours. Now, the technology world – IT companies and startup ecosystem – is divided over such practices. Though old world wisdom is against such practices as it is considered unethical, new world is ready to embrace it. And this has become a hot debate in the recent time.

Wipro's Chairman Rishad Premji has termed moonlighting as cheating. "There is a lot of chatter about people moonlighting in the tech industry. This is cheating – plain and simple," Premji noted. Market leader Tata Consultancy Services COO N Ganapathy Subramaniam has also joined the debate against moonlighting. He has called it an ethical issue and opined that the IT sector will be at the receiving end if it permits policies such as moonlighting.

However, Tech Mahindra CEO CP Gurnani has favourable views on the subject. He said it was not rampant and his company would probably make a policy so that employees can be open about pursuing more than one job at a time. Among startups, Swiggy is the first company to come up with a policy that allows employees to do other projects outside office hours. "Any project or activity that is taken up outside office hours or on the weekend, without affecting productivity, and does not have a conflict of interest, can be picked up by the employees. The employee will have to declare a few necessary details so that the team can greenlight the project," Swiggy noted in a blog post.

So, the discussion over moonlighting has many aspects. First, as worldwide web helps the world to be closer, global opportunities are rising. As the pandemic makes the remote working model acceptable, job opportunities will increase in coming years. In this context, Indian IT engineers will definitely get to work beyond their office jobs. Therefore, IT companies have to think hard whether to allow or bar such practices. Many experts opine that as work from offices resume, moonlighting options will come down. Another aspect of moonlighting is that the loyalty and brand connect of IT employees with their companies seems to be going down over the years. Many engineers are preferring to work in global captives or startups than working in pure-play IT services companies.

Indian IT industry has to mull over such disconnect and engage employees to follow ethical practices. While moonlighting as a concept is not new, remote work environment has made it new normal. That is the reason that many employers want it to exist along with the regular office jobs. Whether such coexistence is possible or not, that will be clear over the coming years. For now, there seems to be no right or wrong answer on this concept.

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