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Return to workplace may ease moonlighting concerns in IT: Experts

Moonlighting refers to employees taking up side gigs to work on more than one job at a time.

NEW DELHI: Moonlighting refers to employees taking up side gigs to work on more than one job at a time.

With the vexed issue now in the spotlight, some industry watchers expect employers to consider extra safeguards to protect proprietary information and operating models, especially where employees are working remotely. Companies, analysts say, could also turn tougher on exclusivity clauses in employment contracts.

That said, employers may feel somewhat reassured as tech workers trickle back in, and the office cubicles start to get occupied more regularly.

While the practice of moonlighting emerged as a big talking point after Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji flagged the issue, equating it to “cheating”, the industry’s take on it is rather divided.

Tech Mahindra CEO C P Gurnani tweeted recently that it is necessary to keep changing with the times and added, “I welcome disruption in the ways we work.”

IT industry veteran and former director of Infosys, Mohandas Pai told that low entry-level salary in tech industry has contributed to moonlighting. During the pandemic, Pai said, there was a surge in gig opportunities as “everything went digital”.

“If you don’t pay people well, they say I want to earn more money and here is the easy way of earning well because technology is available...I get paid in dollars very well, I can earn more... and so that is attractive,” he observed.

Pai contends that salaries of freshers in the software industry have not seen much improvement in the last 10 years, and professionals are, in fact, “underpaid” in the first 3-4 years of their career.

“The gig economy has opened up, and there are lot of gig platforms globally where one can register and work for anybody around the world. And they will pay for pieces of work,” he explained.

Pai feels that while employees should not indulge in outside work during the time committed to their companies, nor leverage intellectual property, asset or resources of their employers for other purposes, individuals’ free time is their own.

“Outside that time (work hours), what you do, is your problem,” he asserted.

Pai estimates that 6-8 per cent of people indulge in moonlighting now, as against 1-2 per cent earlier.

Tech workers agree moonlighting gained ground after the onset of COVID-19 triggered ‘work from home’.

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