The Side Hustle Phenomenon: Why Employees are Taking Extra Work – and How You Should Respond as a Business

The economic landscape in Australia is relatively strong, especially in comparison to the performance of other commonwealth countries – namely the UK. Australia’s growth rate is as high as 4.2% according to recent statistical information. However, despite this robust growth, there are shifting attitudes amongst Australia’s working population.

More people than ever before are taking on ‘side hustles’ to complement their full-time salaried work with existing organisations. As the number of people taking side hustles seems set to rise even further, what could explain this phenomenon? What might the impact be on existing businesses? And what should employers do in response to this shift in employee habits?

The Side Hustle

A side hustle is simply a second job or source of income, taken on by workers to subsidise their income from their main role. They often take the form of freelance work, whether through using professional skills or monetising hobbies.

While the side hustle as a concept is essentially nothing new, it has gained traction amongst workers in recent years thanks to the fast pace of technological advancement. Accessibility to sources of work and sales platforms alike has improved dramatically, enabling people to seek additional income sources with much less difficulty.

Shifting Attitudes

But the forward march of technology – and its consequent impact on accessibility – does not justify the marked increase in uptake of additional work and income sources alone. Rather, there are other factors at play that have influenced employee habits with regard to their work.

Firstly, the coronavirus pandemic saw stringent lockdown restrictions across the world, a major event which changed many workers’ attitudes to their work – specifically with regard to returning. Many re-evaluated their relationship to their job, with some beginning to make moves towards their preferred career.

This is recently manifested in the form of the Great Resignation. This is a phenomenon that first occurred in the US, before crossing the Atlantic to the UK in late 2021 and now hitting Australia. Australia’s recent labour force statistics have revealed a national turnover rate of 9.5%, indicating that more people are leaving work than ever before.

The reasons are manifold, but common threads include shifts in attitude regarding workplace stress and pay. For some, then, the side hustle is a route to recompense and also a route out of an undesirable career path.

Common Side Hustles

Side hustles can take many shapes and forms, from casual work with a second organisation to fully-fledged home businesses and beyond. Some seek to grow their income as part-time forex traders, using retail trading apps to build a portfolio on their own terms. Others seek to monetise their hobbies, through creating online stores for selling home-crafted items. There are others that have successfully built a freelance portfolio, enabling regular consultant work in their industry of choice.

How Employers Should Respond

The rise of the side hustle has been a cause for concern for some employers, especially with increased disquiet amongst the working population and the rise in national turnover. But employers should not be concerned; indeed, the side hustle could be a good thing for business.

A side hustle can be an enriching thing, as well as an incentive for people to learn more in the form of direct and transferable skills. These upskilled employees can be more of an asset to your business as a whole.

If you are concerned that employees will be distracted by their side hustle endeavours, there is little you can do legally. An employee is entitled to do as they please in their free time. However, you could address the reasons for the increased uptake of additional work amongst your staff. A pay rise, or new perks and benefits, could enable staff members to relax into their role without worrying about sourcing additional income.