IN SIMPLICITY: Moonlighting is wrong… but is it really?

  • The IT industry has been at odds with employees for years
  • Illegal work is the sign of a deeper malaise and not the cause
  • Tech white-collar workers demand better working conditions and HR policies from employers from Bangalore to Silicon Valley

Moonlighting has become a hot topic ever since Wipro Executive Chairman Rishad Premji called it “outright cheating”. Many captains of industry have jumped on the bandwagon to freely share their views on the subject and most of them are against it except for CP Gurnani from Tech Mahindra. In a tweet, he wrote, “My thoughts on the trending ‘M-word’… There is a need to continue to evolve with the times, and as always, I welcome disruptions to our ways of working.”

For those who joined this conversation late, moonlighting is nothing more than accepting assignments outside of one’s regular, and may I add, full-time jobs. Many will support his view as this is a breach of contract, but the IT industry is facing human resource issues that it cannot wish for.

Trends in undeclared work

Moonlighting may have become a topic of conversation in India now, but it’s been on the rise in the United States since 1996. According to the US Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics, the moonlighting rate jobs rose to 7.2% in 2018 from 6.8% in 1996.

In the United States, more women work multiple jobs than men. In the United States, employers tend to put policies in place for employees that require disclosures from them to avoid conflicts of interest and the use of office resources for other jobs. It is time for Indian employers to recognize the writing on the wall instead of using heavy-handed tactics that will further alienate employees.

Moonlighting has been around for a very long time and professionals in the creative industries have toyed with the idea, but it only became mainstream after the pandemic.

Moonlighting only became common after the pandemicTenor

Why is the workforce disengaged?

Before vilifying their employees, threatening them, or throwing employee code at them, captains of industry should smell the coffee and ask themselves if they are somehow responsible for the disengagement that most IT workforces feel. Working from home may have allowed more people to explore moonlighting, but that’s not the real cause.

At the start of the pandemic, WFH seemed like a really good idea for IT company bosses as it delivered huge savings starting in the September quarter of FY21. As costs came down, margins jumped and stocks rallied.

Unsurprisingly, companies were willing to make this a permanent feature and were looking to reallocate their large tech parks and real estate assets. Two years later, they’ve taken to Twitter and branded their employees as unethical, and in doing so, they’ve brought their “human issue” back into the spotlight.

The pandemic has only heightened the problem of disgruntled employees and their cry for better wages. While many of my friends who run HR functions tell me that moonlighting is a breach of contract, the human practices of major Indian IT companies can certainly improve from where they are now.

Time spent on the ground

Scratch below the surface or better yet visit Glassdoor or Quora and search “Time on Floor” and you will find horrifying stories of how Indian IT companies are run. An employee of a leading IT services company in Bangalore told me that he had to clock a certain number of hours in his seat while he was on a project, which must have added up to eight hours or more and to achieve his goal, he reduced his toilet. breaks and even time to eat lunch.

In 2017, a large technology services company laid off women returning from maternity leave, and another in Calcutta stopped providing employees with transport to and from campus.

The ‘moonlight chatter’ is just the latest sore spot for an industry that has struggled to manage its employees or keep them happy, which may explain why they rely so heavily on newbies. .

Moonlighting is an issue that may have surfaced after the onset of the pandemic in 2020 and working from home gave people the leeway to explore other sources of income since they weren’t sitting down. in the office and save time.

There is a deeper malaise that tech companies in India need to tackle from the start, as Big Techs in Silicon Valley are doing.

The problem of disgruntled employees is not new

Since time immemorial, the IT industry in India has been grappling with high levels of attrition and pressure on margins due to rising salaries. Given the sheer number of employees in each of these companies, it is difficult to create a sense of belonging, loyalty and commitment.

Nearly two decades ago, at the town hall of a major IT company, the highly respected founder was asked why variable compensation was not being paid despite the company’s very high growth trajectory – at the time , some IT companies were growing 100% a year. -on-year. The revered founder told him that the company had its own internal goals, which were not met, therefore, the variable compensation was not granted.

SSII salaries are a lever for managing margins and controlling costs, thousands of new entrants are hired each year. Any industry that treats employees as labor and not as capital is bound to experience low levels of engagement and engagement.

IN SIMPLICITY: Moonlighting is wrong... but is it really?
Tech CEO salaries have skyrocketed in a decade while new salaries have held steadyBI India

One need only compare the salary growth of senior executives with that of freshmen to see the disparity. Between 2012 and 2022, the Infosys CEO’s salary increased from ₹80 lakh to ₹79.75 crore, while that of freshmen increased from ₹2.75 lakh to ₹3.6 lakh. The story is no different for other major players in IT services (see table). Town halls, Quora and Glassdoor testify to this trend.

Are trade unions the solution?

In a bid to improve working conditions in the IT and ITES sectors and to have these companies adopt better human resource policies, employees banded together to form a union in November 2017. The Karnataka Labor Department certified the formation of the Karnataka State IT/ITES Employees Union (KITU) under the Trade Union Act 1926 and the Karnataka Trade Union Regulations 1958.

The first such union was born amid a large-scale industry downturn in 2017. Unions never took off because few employees were willing to join the union. But that doesn’t take away the problem that people have with their employer.

One might wonder why would white-collar workers want to come together and fight for their rights when they are already privileged and enjoying “higher wages” and free meals?

There’s a reason tech workers around the world push back against the practices of their employers, whether it’s about their business practices or the treatment of outspoken employees. Silicon Valley tech workers are also looking to organize to push their employers to adopt more inclusive policies.

An April 2021 Washington Post article states, “Union advocates say the discrimination faced by women and people of color at tech companies demonstrates the need for stronger worker protections. Unions can also be a way for workers to raise their voices on issues they have with the decisions leaders make, like – which politicians to give money to or whether to sell software to the workforce. army and the police. Unlike in the industrial age, white-collar unions today seek answers to larger questions about fairness, the treatment of employees, and general company policies.


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