Moonlighting – The 2022 Debate

The debate around moonlighting is heated right now. On the one end of the spectrum are companies like Swiggy that are not weary about employees in non-critical projects taking up side-gigs provided they make a declaration. On the other hand are companies like Wipro that call moonlighting down right ‘cheating’.

What is moonlighting?

Moonlighting refers to having a second job in addition to the primary employment, taken up by employees in secret.

The pandemic effect

Workplaces have become more fluid with work from home and hybrid options; long commute time has reduced, employees have more opportunities to juggle smaller side projects in their free time.

The pandemic seems to have set in a trend of ‘Productivity Paranoia’ a term coined by Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. According to a survey on corporate attitudes by Microsoft, about 85% of the leaders think their employees are not productive, while 87% of employees say their productivity is just fine.

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Why are companies against it?

Most tech-based businesses fear the risk of data and knowledge drain, specifically when employees take up second jobs with competing companies. In addition, there is also an apprehension that workers may be moonlighting during office hours when working from home.

IT companies are battling record high attrition levels in the era of Great Resignation, skilled employees are in high demand and even small perks are enough for employees to stay or leave.  

Does moonlighting breed innovation?

Employees don’t quit without a Plan B. They usually pursue their passion as a side gig with a steady job and then quit to pursue the entrepreneurial journey. Take a look at the founders of some of India’s leading start-ups and you will notice how moonlighting has led to new value addition to the economy.

Nearly 60 founders have come through the ranks of Zoho (Sridhar Vembu’s SaaS Unicorn). He believes the primary reason behind this is Zoho’s loosely federated operations that make it an effective training ground in business.

Industry leaders take on moonlighting

While Rashid Premji, Chairman of Wipro, tweeted saying it’s ‘cheating – plain and simple’; CP Gurnani, CEO Tech Mahindra says,”Frankly, I am going to make it a policy that if you want to do it (moonlighting), be open about it, share.”

Mohandas Pai, former Infosys director, called moonlighting a fact of life as the technology industry has become global and many gig platforms have come up. He added that employees should not take up outside work during the time committed to their companies, nor leverage IP, assets or resources of their employers for other purposes.

How some companies are attempting to limit it

Wipro terminated 300 employees who were found to be moonlighting for one of its fiercest competitors and Infosys has reportedly warned employees that moonlighting could lead to termination of services. 

Critics argue that such protectionist policies may intensify the talent attrition, and right talent is likely to become even more expensive to hire.

In a research by Kotak Institutional Equities, 65% of the IT/ITeS respondents surveyed said they were pursuing part-time opportunities. The moonlighting issue has definitely complicated the lives of IT employees and it remains to be seen what turn the debate will take in the days to come.


  1. Satya Nadella coins new word productivity paranoia amid moonlighting debate | Mint | 24 Sep 2022
  2. The Moonlighting Vs Innovation Debate | Inc42 | 25 Sep’22
  3. Moonlighting: What is it? What triggered the debate? And what is happening | The Economic Times | Sep 23, 2022
  4. Moonlighting debate: A closer look at IT job contracts & clauses | Business Today | Aug 30, 2022

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