SynopsisThe ongoing pandemic and resultant WFH being implemented as a long-term plan by organisations have led to several instances of employees breaching exclusivity and indulging in activities deemed as dual employment. These issues are more prominently observed in the IT/ITeS/technology sector.
As the pandemic-triggered work-from-home arrangement continues for a sizeable chunk of India Inc, a bunch of white-collar professionals, largely from the technology space, are milking the opportunity to two-time their employers.
A multinational company in the IT/ITeS sector, in remote work mode since March 2020 in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, found this out the hard way when it recently installed employee productivity software on office computers used by employees, after noticing many workers’ output dipping despite clocking in nine -10 hours a day.
It opened up a can of worms.
The company discovered that many of its employees were engaged in side activities outside of work.
While some of these were fairly innocuous, there were a few who had signed up with freelance websites and were accepting gig projects on the side.
It prompted the company to take immediate disciplinary action. “There is an increasing group of white-collar employees who are taking advantage of the remote working setup,” said Atul Gupta, partner of law firm Trilegal, citing the above incident with one of his clients.
“Companies are becoming especially alert when there are performance issues cropping up. Many organisations are actively considering installing monitoring software on office laptops being used at home,” said Gupta.
Smaller firms, startups making hay
The ongoing pandemic and resultant WFH being implemented as a long-term plan by organisations have led to several instances of employees breaching exclusivity and indulging in activities deemed as dual employment, said Anshul Prakash, a partner at law firm Khaitan & Co, who specialises in employment and labour laws.
These issues are more prominently observed in the IT/ITeS/technology sector, he said. Smaller companies and startups are using the current situation to get work done by skilled professionals already in full-time jobs at other firms at a fraction of what it would have cost them otherwise. Some employees, particularly those at the junior level, on their part are using their free time – in the evening, during weekends or even during regular work hours – to juggle other projects and assignments and make some extra money on the side. The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted how many workers were earning two full-time pay cheques while working remotely. “Before the pandemic, the temptation to succumb was lesser. Now, with remote work, there’s less travel, more free time. A number of younger guys are moonlighting,” said the head of a firm who uses developers from some of the country’s top IT firms to work for him on the side.
Earning extra money
“They work for around 20-25 hours a month for me developing small apps. It saves me the higher cost of commissioning a big firm or hiring someone full-time; they make about Rs 20,000-25,000 extra,” he said on the condition of anonymity. Companies are increasingly cottoning on to the fact that they are being played, say those in the know. Arpinder Singh, global markets and India leader, forensic and integrity services, at EY said at least five-six large companies had reached out to them over the last year to detect such cases among employees and find a solution. “A lot of this is happening in the tech space; professionals are using the opportunity to develop apps, help with IT controls for others.”
Rahul Belwalkar, CEO of SecUR Credentials, said he has been getting feedback from IT companies that during the WFH period, they’re aware of people doing double jobs – or moonlighting as contractors on the side. “In fact, you will notice how many IT majors have now changed their narrative – they’re not talking about how a hybrid WFH and physical presence is the future – they’re talking about how they want to get their people back by December and January. This ‘two timing’ is apparently one of the biggest drivers for that change,” he said.
“In the post-pandemic work-from-home milieu, there is ample scope for people to pull off something like this. At home, people could be using multiple devices and their home WiFi network and it is impossible for the company to track them,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, executive vice president, TeamLease Services.
In some instances, companies are kept in the loop.
Chandrika Pasricha, founder of Flexing It, a platform for business consultants and skilled flexible talent on demand, said during Covid, there has been an increase in the number of people in full-time jobs who have signed up for projects, but they ensure it is with the approval of the employer.
“Also, in some sectors like hospitality and travel, there were companies who relaxed their rules since they weren’t able to fully utilise their employees during the pandemic. They allowed people to take on projects where there was no conflict of interest,” she said.
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