Today’s workplace is changing rapidly–office cubicles, awkward holiday parties, and water cooler chat are increasingly being replaced by remote workers completing tasks on their own time, freelance-style. This means your employees are more likely to find extra online and freelance gigs to shore up their income. Rather than discouraging this behavior, clever employers are increasingly discovering just how beneficial supporting your freelance employees can be.
While it may seem counterintuitive to encourage the use of precious working hours to apply their skills elsewhere, in fact, backing up your employees’ side hustles could very well increase your company’s overall revenue.
In this article, we will take a look at the main benefits a successful employee side hustle can bring to your company, and how you can provide support.
Loyalty, Trust, and Motivation
Working on a side hustle requires an enormous amount of self motivation.
If you have an employee team composed of inspired, motivated self-starters who are able to complete tasks on their own time and determine their own rates of productivity you, as an employer, can rest assured that isn’t going to change because of a side hustle. When employees are motivated and feel supported by an employer, the likely result is high-quality work, perhaps even that outperforms other employees. So, encouraging an employee to pursue their own projects in addition to company assignments creates a dynamic working environment – and a potential hotbed of new ideas.
At Google, for example, employees are paid to spend 20% of their time pursuing side projects. This approach creates high levels of trust between Google and its employees and allows for employees to spend time developing their skills, which they then can use to continue creating Google’s world class digital innovations.
Self starters tend to challenge each other. Once that creative and problem-solving approach to freelance work or side gigs is activated, it does not stop with individual hustles, but extends to problems and puzzles your business may face as well.
Diversify Your Capabilities
With a team of experts in their individual fields constantly working to maintain their expertise, your company is able to offer its clients truly top quality services. When your employees sharpen their craft in a diverse array of niche subjects, they also increase the options your company can offer and broaden your reach to clientele.
By backing an employee’s external pursuits, you just might increase the company’s reach into different arenas. Is Jimmy in accounting also working on a cybersecurity certification for his freelance job on the side? When your small company finds itself under assault from the daily dose of hacker attacks, which are increasing every year now, you will be glad to have a person at the ready to set up appropriate breach defenses and provide mitigation in the aftermath.
Developing an employee team with a diversified skill set can come in handy for internal problems as well. Instead of hiring an external coding expert, for example, that same accountant can be paid to fix your website bug, and you know that the job will be done right. No need to screen for coders! This kind of internal support further increases loyalty, trust, and productivity among your employees.
Accountability and Mutual Respect
It takes gumption and risk to strike out on one’s own. When you support an employee’s extracurricular efforts you offer respect for their capabilities outside of the usual company context. This recognition often makes them hold themselves more accountable for their professional conduct within the company.
How can you support employees as they strike out on their own?
First, make it clear that you are on their side and available for feedback and advice. By sharing your wisdom, accrued over years of successes and failures, they will gain valuable insight into how to successfully pursue their own endeavors. A more intrinsic understanding of why your business is run the way it is could have the side effect of making them more enthusiastic about it.
If the side hustle eventually succeeds and becomes the main hustle, consider the benefit of having a loyal former employee who refers business to you, providing a lifelong mutual support system.
A Leap of Faith
Although it may be unnerving to rely on employees who want to pursue additional projects, try to resist the initial paranoia. The investment in the creativity, development of skills, outside learning, and honing of expertise that these side gigs provide have the potential to reimburse many times over as they deeply embed trust and loyalty into your company’s workforce and client base, and earn you even more money in the long run.
Brian Skewes is a technologist into deconstruction. Over two decades of self-employment, he has accumulated a wealth of inadvertent real-world lessons related to building, running, and preserving a small company.