The Secret Life of the American Overworker

Written By Saurabh Kumar

Our landscape is an interesting one; it almost reads like a bad sci-fi novel. The human race is trying desperately to emerge from the grips of a deadly pandemic that has ravaged the entire population. The world we are trying to rebuild is war-torn, fraught with inequality, and our very planet is dying at an accelerating clip. To top it all off, inflation is at record levels around the globe, and people are scrambling to find ways to make ends meet. 

Can you really blame us for wanting to enjoy the time we have left?

As remote work became the norm for many people over the last two years, the phenomenon of overemployment emerged alongside it. Overemployment is working two full-time jobs, whether it be unbeknownst to your employer or not, in hopes of accelerating your journey to financial independence and maybe even early retirement. 

With employers’ limited visibility into their workers’ day-to-day activities, the remote work shift brought a wave of people moving to an overemployed life. Online communities have been built around discussion and shared experiences for working multiple full-time jobs, and even getting advice on how to lead such a lifestyle under the radar. 

But why the need for secrecy? Overemployed workers are not on a mission to laze around on paid time; more often than not, these are highly skilled and productive workers simply looking to take full advantage of their talent. 

Well, recent headlines have shown jarring responses to the concept, including those of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Canopy CEO Davis Bell. Both executives recently came under fire for firing engineers who held more than one job, according to Forbes. This begs the question: should companies have a say in what their employees do beyond their role?

The troubling precedent of endangering your career through your quest for financial freedom— especially when your jobs present no conflicts of interest with each other—feels suffocating in many ways. The fixed cost of entering such professions is still on the rise with tuition increasing and the cost of living in commercial hubs skyrocketing. Ultimately, limiting the amount of work someone is allowed to undertake only inhibits their ability to reach a financially free state. 

According to an article published in Fox Business, the reality is that some workers who are choosing overemployment feel less stressed because of the additional income and job security. Overemployment remains in a legal gray area, says an article posted on LinkedIn, but with the nature of at-will employment, being fired is certainly still a possibility. 

Even still, not all workers pursuing multiple jobs are doing so under wraps. According to the same Fox Business article—exemplified in stories on the popular Reddit community r/Overemployed—some have found luck arranging their overemployment with their employers.

While debate still remains alive about whether one person can feasibly produce quality work for two employers while preserving their mental health, perhaps the bigger question to ask is how did we get here? Is this cultural phenomenon a signal that the financial burden on the backs of workers has grown too big to bear?a;

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