Rise of “polygamous” careers and the future of work

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Emmanuel Zvada

BY Emmanuel Zvada
NO man can serve two masters at the same time as the saying goes, but it now seems as if the traditional way of working for one employer is now being replaced by polygamous work arrangements, especially for top talent entering the workforce today as well as some critical professions with rare skills. Today’s employees might not find the level of purpose, fulfillment and development they want out of a single job with one company. This has given rise to an entirely new term “polygamous careers” which is not quite the norm yet, though many experts predict that this approach will continue to spread across the workforce.

What exactly is a polygamous career?

The term “polygamous career” is pretty self-explanatory. Employees generate income through an assortment of jobs and projects, rather than growing their career with one employer at a time. To some professions people no longer need to be physically available at the traditional office to be productive. They can now work from home and still manage to deliver work. That means they can still work for one company at the same time also giving his services to company B. Polygamous careers, which are sometimes also known as “overemployment,” give workers the opportunity to hone new skills, fully leverage their knowledge, and pursue numerous interests at once. The thrust will be on contributing to various projects and roles, as opposed to working wholly with a precise
employer.

Factors driving the push toward polygamous careers

The trend towards polygamous careers has been quietly gaining ground during the COVID-19 pandemic and post pandemic where various people got employed for two companies from different continents working different times. This works for jobs that can be done remotely and for those that cannot be done remotely they normally arrange on project-based. What causes this shift and shake-up of the traditional employer and employee dynamics of working for one employer is one factor which need to be interrogated as there are a number of potential factors that may have contributed and these include:

Growth in freelancing and consultancy-based projects

Career polygamy may seem like a natural choice for those free-spirits who already work outside traditional offices. Highly skilled workers are increasingly joining the freelance economy. Freelancers work on projects while and may have more than two to three client and they get paid per gig, while the over-employed earn a salary. Gone are the days of looking at freelance consultants through a narrow scope; they should not be portrayed as outsiders to organisations any longer. Now more than ever, companies need flexible talent to chip in and take the reins on projects when a need for their skills arises. An increase in these opportunities has led many professionals to explore this type of work, and that has given rise of work polygamy.

Increased desire for learning and development.

Workers do not want to just punch the clock and go home, they want to expand their skill sets and advance their careers. In most cases one in three employees’ top reason for leaving their jobs is lack of growth. When someone is faced by such circumstance, he or she can be forced to look for flexible arrangements with other employers while they are with you. For those feeling unfulfilled in their current positions, diversifying their career, projects, and need more sources of income, polygamous careers could be a logical next route to take.

The workforce is changing — and you should too

It is no secret that the desires and expectations of the workforce have drastically shifted in recent years — and they will continue to evolve. Employers who knuckle down on archaic approaches and practices will struggle to hire and retain talent as workers seek out organisations that are better equipped to support and even fuel their multifaceted interests and passions. The good news is that this push toward polygamous careers does not have to represent the end of your engaged and committed team. In fact, handling this shift strategically could represent a bright new beginning.

Is it illegal to work two full time jobs?

It is easier than ever for employees to work second jobs or side hustles, even when they already have a full-time job. This is especially true as more remote work and gig economy opportunities continue to become available. As an employer, however, you may be concerned that side gigs or second jobs could take your employees’ energy and time away from their primary job working for you. Employers may legally limit the rights of their employees to work a second job, especially if that work substantially interferes or competes with the duties of their primary
job.

Depending on your contract, however, there may be some limits as to what type of work you may restrict or when you may do so. While working two jobs is not illegal, even simultaneously depending with flexibility levels, it could be a contract violation, which would get you terminated from one or both positions.

In other words, if an employee’s second job affects or risks your business interests, you may be able to legally discipline or fire them.

How polygamous careers will shift HR practices

Today, for a variety of reasons as aforementioned, employees are less motivated by exclusivity and instead are seeking a variety of jobs and projects instead of one employer. The entire HR systems, from recruitment to HR policies, has been geared for monogamous careers where an employee can only work for one employer, but l think and feel there should be a shift as well for companies need to gear up to enable “polygamous” careers which is just on its way. HR teams will need to change or consider as polygamous careers become more commonplace.

HR to embrace a culture of cross-skilling

Cross-skilling (also known as cross-training) is the process of developing new skills that apply across different functions. For example, an accountant can have marketing skills or human resources skills. This gives workers the flexibility to expand their skills, explore other careers, and develop a greater understanding and appreciation of all of the aspects of your organisation. As more workers take the polygamous route, they will build communities of their own. Employers can lean on their workers to tap into their personal networks and recommend others they know for projects and opportunities.

Getting rid of the exclusivity clause, if possible

Exclusivity clauses in employment contracts dictate that a worker’s position with the company will be their only form of employment. But, for people who wish to pursue polygamous careers, that level of rigidity will be a dealbreaker as they do not normally want that restriction. Removing the exclusivity clause does not mean you are necessarily unprotected. You may also require employees to sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement to ensure that your sensitive information is kept well. If you are worried that employees with multiple roles will be using company time to other projects you can also include clauses within your contracts that stipulate how company time and property should be used. You may also work on results-based and target-based arrangements so that those willing to be involved in polygamous work arrangements will also not feel strained.

Lastly, career polygamy is not for everyone and l know many employers are still sticking to the traditional way of work arrangements though some employees are already embracing it on their own without the employer’s knowledge. For those adventurous souls willing to try it, the rewards can be significant, but should be done properly. By being involved in career polygamy you are less likely to be taken for granted by employers and you are less likely to have your life turned upside down by an unexpected breakup of contractual obligations.

  • Emmanuel Zvada is a Human Capital Consultant and an International Recruitment Expert

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