An increasingly number of people are working not one, but two full time jobs. Some people do it for the money, others for the creative fulfillment. But is it a good idea? That may depend on your goals and your style.
The new trend of polywork (working more than one full time job) will impact you whether or not you’re one of the 40% of workers who do it—because your colleagues or team members may be working in this new way—with impacts on focus, follow through and motivation that affect everyone.
Polywork isn’t the same as a side hustle. Both are on the rise, but true polywork is being employed in multiple full-time jobs. On the other hand, side hustles are your efforts in an auxiliary role—rather than in another full-time role.
If you’re planning on doing more than one full time job, there are some considerations to be aware of—because it’s no panacea. In addition to some upsides, there are definitely drawbacks as well.
Fully 40% of people say they are doing polywork, and Gen Z is most likely to work more than one full time job—with 46% who do, according to a poll by Paychex. Sometimes people work so much because they’re trying to make ends meet, but others do it because of the opportunity to participate in engaging work or because they want to grow their career.
Most of those who have multiple full-time jobs are freelancers (92%) or at entry-levels in their organizations (79%). Those who are least likely to polywork are senior-level employees. And the industries most likely to have employees who work in multiple full-time jobs are technology, advertising/marketing and finance.
The trend toward polywork—for those who do it by choice, rather than solely because of financial requirements—is based on the influence of tech enabling work from anywhere and the extent to which companies are allowing remote and hybrid work. This shows in the poll numbers as well. Those who work remote are most likely to polywork (81%) followed by those who work hybrid (79%).
Considerations for Polywork
Having more than one full time job has some advantages, but it also has challenges—for you, for your team and for your employer. So, if you’re going in (by choice and not because you must for financial reasons), it’s wise to have a clear sense of what you might be in for.
#1 – Your Goals and Needs
The first consideration is your own goals and needs. Consider why you want multiple full-time jobs—and whether you’ll have the energy to do so much. In the Paychex data, people said they appreciated polywork for the flexibility (59%), additional income (50%), freedom (50%), energy (37%) and because it’s a creative outlet (24%).
If you have the time and the energy, polyworking may be for you. If you love the variety, the fast pace and the thrill of juggling lots of responsibilities, great. Just be careful that you don’t over-extend yourself.
If you’re moving from a positive, stimulating experience to a frenetic pace of running from one thing to another, it may be a good idea to step back, regroup and reassess whether you’re getting what you need in comparison to the energy you’re expending.
#2 – Your People
Also consider your people. If you’re working an additional full-time job because you thrive on the tempo, but you don’t have time for family, friends or your community, you may be undermining your fulfillment. Connecting with others, having the space to relax and volunteering in your community are all correlated with happiness.
Working another full-time job may provide you with the extra resources to take a vacation with family, but if they never see you for dinner, it may not be worth it. Polywork may gain you admiration from friends who appreciate your ambition or growth, but if they never have the opportunity to chat with you over coffee, you may be compromising the relationships.
If you’re working so hard that you can’t take time for these kinds of pursuits, you may want to reevaluate not just whether you’re getting what you need, but also whether your people are getting what they need from you.
#3 – Your Mental Health
Mental health is also a consideration. In the survey, when polyworkers were compared to those working only one job, they were more likely to feel burned out and stressed. And they were also less likely to feel inspired.
Having a full life and meaningful work are linked with joy—and it’s important to be able to focus on the things you value. Be sure you can really engage in the work you do and ensure you have time to do your best.
Too many responsibilities can create situations of scarcity—you never feel like you have enough time to do things as well as you’d like. And they can create situations which are superficial—you’re grazing the surface, not learning deeply, avoiding improving on your work or failing to connect with coworkers.
The ideal is a goldilocks approach in which you have enough stimulation, variety and positive stress to keep you interested and motivated—but not so much that you lose energy or interest in what you’re doing.
#4 – Your Performance
In addition to what you’re getting from the model of work you choose, you’ll also want to think about what you’re giving. When you perform well and feel good about your contributions, these are a source of happiness—so your performance benefits not only your organization, but you as well.
In the survey, people with multiple full-time jobs were less likely to feel productive, they were less likely to feel dedicated to their jobs and they were more likely to want a different job (read: unsatisfied with their work).
In addition, compared with those who worked only one full time job, they were less likely to stay with their current employer (54%). They were also slower to learn and develop in their jobs (46%) and they were more likely to have poor organizational skills (45%), frequent tardiness/absence (33%), poor communication (28%) and have difficulty integrating into company culture (24%).
Your performance is your brand. It gives you a sense of esteem, and it’s critical to your credibility, contribution and career progress. Trying to do too many things can cause deterioration in any one thing—so it’s wise to be selective in how you invest yourself—ensuring you can perform well at whatever you’re doing.
#5 – Your Integrity and Your Future
Integrity is also a critical element. If you’re working more than one full time job, you’ll want to be open with your employer. If you feel you need to keep a secret, you may not be doing the right thing for you or your organization. Be transparent about your schedule, so team members know when they can reach you, and reassure your employer you’re not working for a competitor.
If you’re working more than one full-time job because your employer isn’t adequately tapping into your skills or providing growth opportunities, you can communicate your goals and talk about your capabilities—giving them a sense of what you can do and where you want to go.
And if you don’t feel like you’re getting what you need from your current organization, you may be wise to find a different full-time role—one to which you can fully commit and which is a better fit for your present and your future—rather than spreading yourself too thin across responsibilities which only partially meet your needs.
Find Your Fit
Having multiple full-time jobs may be attractive for the variety, creative outlet and extra cash. But consider whether it’s really fulfilling you or whether it’s creating too much rush and hustle. And give thought to your friends, family, community and employer. Doing your best is good for you, but also good for those around you—and this may be the greatest fulfillment of all.