More employees are working side gigs or side hustles to augment their full-time jobs. Some do it for financial reasons, while others enjoy doing something different from their 9 to 5, like blogging, baking or bartending. However, as beneficial as outside employment can be, it poses potential risks of conflicts of interest.
For example, it’s a potential conflict of interest if employees:
- Regularly come to work tired from their second jobs and it negatively affects their work performance
- Work off-hours for companies in your industry, who are either direct or indirect competitors
- Work for the state or city and accept an outside consulting project for a company they monitor in their government job
- Moonlight by blogging about new technology products and then promote them to your IT department without disclosing their relationship with the tech vendors
- Accept an offer to work weekends doing market research analysis for a customer
Establish clear guidelines
While you can’t control what your employees do on their personal time, you can and should establish clear guidelines for identifying and reporting potential conflicts of interest that can arise from side gigs.
An effective conflict of interest policy and training program should:
- Clearly define how conflicts of interest apply to your organization and industry and include relevant examples. The more specific you are, the less likely you’ll hear, “Sorry. I didn’t know that freelancing for our fiercest rival would be a problem.”
- Explain what your organization considers trade secrets and confidential information and discuss the individual responsibilities of every employee to protect that information.
- Provide an easy way for employees to report or inquire about potential conflicts of interest.
- Discuss the consequences employees face for violating your conflicts of interest policy, up to and including termination.
With side gigs becoming increasingly common in today’s diverse workforce, organizations should prepare to manage the potential conflicts of interest that can arise when employees take outside jobs. This includes establishing a well-defined conflicts of interest policy and training program and encouraging employees to disclose their outside employment and report any potential conflicts to HR or their manager.