Clandestine Contracting : A New Workplace Trend

5 min. read

Another workplace trend has surfaced that you should be aware of. It's called clandestine contracting.

There has been a lot of media coverage of Quiet Quitting, the practice of not doing anything beyond what is reasonably required within the framework of your job. It hit the news recently when it went viral on TikTok.

Quiet quitting is indicative of the changing age of the workforce, as well as outside influences affecting employee engagement. What led to this trend? The COVID-19 pandemic caused upheaval around the world, and it changed the way we live and work. Remote work became normal and the way we think of our workplaces changed forever.

What might have previously been regarded as a great place to work engendered high employee engagement had to make the shift to having team members off-site. The pandemic also made people question the life choices they had made and there was a growing trend toward changing careers and quitting their current jobs.

In 2022 another trend has surfaced that you should be aware of. It's called clandestine contracting.

What is clandestine contracting?

Clandestine contracting, or moonlighting, is when a person has a second job. This is typically secret, or done at night, in addition to the current employment that they have. This is of concern if someone is doing two jobs within the same industry, particularly if it’s for a rival firm. Loyalty could be an issue as well as employee engagement.

It seems COVID and remote work have affected multiple industries and clandestine contracting is spreading. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that white-collar workers in industries from tech to banking, and even insurance, have found a way to double their pay working two jobs at the same time.

Side hustles are becoming a acceptable way to earn an extra buck, especially given the rapid inflation and rising cost of living.

Why did clandestine contracting start trending?

Remote work changed the playing field. Folks found that they were suddenly able to have extra time because they didn’t have to drive to meetings or commute to work. This led to many hours in the day being freed up while still performing at a standard that was considered adequate.

The fact that they weren’t at an office also meant that they weren’t being watched, and therefore could schedule the time they needed accordingly. They could split their day and work for two companies and get double the pay without leaving the house. Sounds like a pretty good deal. Clandestine contracting is on the rise as remote work increases and people look for more opportunities and a better life balance.

A recent report in by Nick Hobson, a behavioral scientist, found that 50 percent of the respondents to a survey worked for another company while on the clock with their current employer.

The ethical dilemma of clandestine contracting

Any sort of business done secretly on the side, while having full-time employment can be considered a clandestine contract, especially if you are supposed to be working full-time at another company. If you are paid by the hour and you are getting paid by another company for those same hours, that presents an ethical dilemma.

It's not unusual to hear of working class heroes toiling away at more than one job to put food on the table and help their family improve their current lot. Working two jobs is one thing, but working two jobs at exactly the same time and keeping that secret could be considered another thing entirely.

Jake Ferrin, a young product UX designer, was working for two companies at once and found that although he was making excellent money, he became anxious and paranoid, expecting to be found out at any minute. The secret weighted heavily on his conscience.

Even when the first company found out and did not have any objections, he still had constant anxiety about the second company finding out what he was doing. It took quite a toll on his mental health and after eight months he quit the second job.

The question of ethics can easily be solved if both employers know it's occurring and have given the go-ahead for the team member to take up other employment. Putting quantitative measures in place can easily solve this problem.

Many companies do not enforce hours on their employees, but rather focus on results. A results-driven enterprise means that your team members are accountable for the tasks set and the deadlines they have to reach. They know that if they do not get it done on time and in an effective and excellent manner it won’t be up to scratch.

Many companies are also make allowances for work-life balance. If the employee wants to take an hour to go for a bike ride or spend that time on something else that they personally want to do, that is perfectly acceptable as long as they get their work done on time.

A positive workplace culture puts well-being and profit side-by-side. If someone wants to take up another job to save money to get themselves out of debt or provide for their family, that is an admirable thing. If a member of your team can have a side hustle and still perform well on the job, clandestine contracting won’t be an issue

The problem with this scenario is the clandestine part. When both employers are fully in the picture and everyone is open and honest, there is no problem. You have no fear of being caught.

But the minute is becomes clandestine, that fear kicks in. When you are open and above board, working for two companies is not an issue. It is the clandestine contracting part, keeping your activities hidden, that breeds anxiety and fear.