‘Duality of profession’ is on the rise, according to new research from pensions and investment adviser Fidelity International.
In its 9 September publication The Modern Life Report,  compiled from a survey of more than 2,000 adults, the firm reveals that almost half (46%) of people in their twenties have a second source of income – or side hustle – in addition to their main job, compared to just 21% in their fifties. The figures suggest that workers are increasingly expecting the latitude to perform side hustles in parallel with their primary occupations.
“Interestingly,” the report adds, “nearly a third (31%) of UK adults would like their hobby or interest to become their main job – and that increases to more than half of twenty-somethings (54%).”
The research follows findings published last month by mobile tech brand Honor, showing that 55% of 18-to-34 year-olds are currently engaged in a variety of side hustles, from buying and reselling items online to running boutique arts and crafts markets on platforms such as NotOnTheHighStreet and Etsy. 
However, a sceptical take on this subject emerged in a 4 September article at Cosmopolitan, entitled ‘Why is no one talking about the dark side of side hustling?’  The piece highlights the experience of a professional named Caoilfhionn Maguire, who started a side hustle as a travel writer as a means of pursuing her wanderlust.
She told the magazine: “While my side hustle helped me travel, which is my biggest love in life, it meant I was often working until midnight and not getting enough sleep. I pressured myself to deliver work faster than was humanly possible.” After three years, she added, “I hit full-on burnout and it wasn't pretty. I had to take three weeks off work – full-time and side hustle – which ultimately made me incredibly anxious.”
Cosmopolitan cites a 2018 white paper from Henley Business School, The Side Hustle Economy,  which showed that people with side hustles typically work 50 hours per week – on average, 13 hours more than non-side hustling staff.
The Henley paper also noted that 49% of firms don’t have a policy on side hustles.
Quoted in the research, leading HR academic Dr Charmi Patel said: “A formal policy on side hustling within employment contracts will become essential. A key issue is compliance: if staff are working flexible hours, from home or virtually, the control might not be there on whether they are conducting their own business on company time, and using company property, resources and data to do so.”
From the perspectives of both wellbeing and employers’ expectations of how much access they should have to their staff, what are the soundest ethical conditions in which employees can run side hustles?
The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “There are lots of different facets to this subject. Firstly, there’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the full-time, main job is not merely a contractual relationship with the employee. It must be more than contractual, ensuring that the interests of both parties are enshrined at the heart of the arrangement. So it’s up to line managers to really know the individuals they’re managing. To know, in each case, the whole person – not just the part that comes to work. And if people are working excessively hard on side hustles, with long hours and no sleep, the resulting issues will certainly manifest themselves. So line managers are best placed to pick up on those knock-on effects.”
She notes: “There are some fascinating points in this topic about the blurring of work and leisure. The Cosmopolitan example highlights someone who is, or was, being paid to follow her favourite hobby, so that rather reframes what we mean by ‘leisure’, in the traditional sense. It’s also interesting that the Fidelity report indicates a significant percentage of people would like their hobby or interest to become their main job. Those findings say a great deal about the quality of work available in the job market.”
Cooper adds: “It’s a shame that Dr Patel in the Henley report goes straight into a ‘these people can’t be trusted’ line. Trust is the bedrock of flexible working, and for that, you need clearly defined outputs. Again, you have to really know the people who are working for you – whether they are coming into an office or carrying out their duties remotely. You should be able to tell from an employee’s productivity whether or not they are devoting reasonable attention to the tasks you have delegated to them, and for which they’re being paid.
“But perhaps what the side-hustle trend really flags up is the scope for agreeing different types of work contract with the main employer. If a worker’s side hustle is growing, and they’re enjoying it, and it’s not adversely affecting their primary job, why not reduce their contract to four days a week and free up their time so they can respond to that growth? Let’s use this trend as an opportunity to rethink our ideas of what we expect from our staff, and consider how we can help them lead fulfilling lives. I will be writing about this in greater detail in the forthcoming ‘Happiness Issue’ of Edge, in which I will examine the importance of good work as a contributor to wellbeing.”
Image of Etsy logo on a mobile phone courtesy of NYC Russ, via Shutterstock