The New Moonlighting

Danielle Beurteaux

If you hate your job, don’t read this post.

A recent study commissioned by Adobe and completed by communications company Edelman asked office workers in the U.S., India, and the UK about their attitudes towards work and technology. Called Work in Progress, the study discovered some interesting trends.

For instance, 70 percent of U.S. workers, 83 percent of Indian workers, and 60 percent of UK workers surveyed reportedly love their jobs. The survey also sheds some light on how important work has become to people’s identities and lives: 51 percent of U.S. workers reported that they would keep their current job even if they won the lottery (maybe just cut down on some hours). In the UK and India, the figures are 67 and 98 percent, respectively.

But perhaps more surprising is what the numbers tell us about the future of independent working. With the recession and the rise of the on-demand economy, evidenced by task and freelance apps and sites like TaskRabbit and Elance, many predict that the future of work will comprise two classes of workers—full-time and self-employed—or that everyone will eventually be a freelancer. There will be no conventional jobs, just gigs and clients.

Adobe’s survey also finds that a full third of U.S. office workers are moonlighting. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that many are still feeling economically crunched—69 percent say they moonlight to earn extra money. But 27 percent do it to pursue a passion not related to their job, and 25 and 22 percent do it to increase their skills for a career switch and to get experience to help them move ahead with their current careers. (Also, the survey reports, moonlighters are just happier people in general).

This is the gig economy as career development—skill-lancing, if you will. Employees say that job training and opportunities to advance their career are very important to how they view their jobs and their companies. Yet many companies don’t provide those opportunities. So employees are doing it for themselves, and gaining skills and work experience in their office is a logical way to do it.

This tells us a lot about how many employees are beginning to view their careers. The Adobe report found that 59 percent of U.S. workers are looking to change jobs. That number is at 50 percent even for those who love their current jobs. And it isn’t just about money. More than 50 percent would also change jobs to their “ideal job,” even if it means earning less money.

Two generations of workers have grown up hearing about the gig economy and the end of stable, full-time jobs, so we shouldn’t be surprised that they are preparing for the next job and creating career paths without help from their current employers.

This is a double-edged sword—employers might be fine with this when times are tight and there are plenty of people looking for jobs. But what about when the job market tightens and they need to attract new talent?

For more insight on the future of work and the evolving workplace, see Live Business: The Rise Of The Digital Workforce.


Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.