“Overemployed” people secretly work overlapping remote jobs

Kristin Schwab Oct 23, 2023
Heard on:
There are online forums where people share tips about how to work overlapping remote jobs. MundusImages/Getty Images

“Overemployed” people secretly work overlapping remote jobs

Kristin Schwab Oct 23, 2023
Heard on:
There are online forums where people share tips about how to work overlapping remote jobs. MundusImages/Getty Images

Growing up, Molly was taught traditional workplace values.

“Get a job, work in a cubicle or wherever they assign you, work 120% and move up the corporate ladder,” she said.

Molly is an instructional designer and makes videos for employee onboarding and cybersecurity training. She lives with her husband near Los Angeles and has four kids. And for most of her career, she subscribed to that idea of being loyal to your employer.

That changed when she was laid off during the pandemic. She got a part-time job, and when she later landed a similar full-time job, she planned to resign from job No. 1. 

“But then I stopped myself, and I’m like, ‘You know, the other job is pretty easy,'” she said.

It was November 2020, and Molly decided that even though the hours overlapped, she could do both jobs for a while.

“Why don’t I just try to keep doing this and just have a better Christmas and surprise the kids and enjoy ourselves a little bit?” she said. “And after the new year, I’ll quit.”

Except she didn’t quit. Molly is still working two jobs. She’s taking this risk because, for the first time, she’s making six figures. “Molly” is a pseudonym, and Marketplace has verified her employment with paystubs.

There are plenty of workers like Molly taking advantage of the benefits of working remotely by secretly working multiple jobs. These workers call themselves overemployed. It’s unclear how many people are doing this, because between contract work and jobs that pay under the table, it’s hard for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track. But there’s a growing community of workers taking to online forums who say that since the pandemic, working multiple jobs has become easier.

Of course, easier doesn’t mean easy. Take Molly, who has to be a sort of multitasking octopus. Each job has its own laptop, labeled with a bright Post-it note. And when two Zoom meetings overlap, she turns the audio on and camera off for job No. 1 and audio off and camera on for job No. 2.

“I’m following the cues of everybody else,” she said. “If they’re laughing and clapping, I’m doing the same. It’s like being an actress.”

There are online forums full of people sharing similar tips for how to make this work. Job 2 wants a meeting at the same time as Job 1? Say there’s a family emergency. One company wants to put your photo on its staff webpage? Say you can’t — you have a stalker. 

Maybe you’re giving these people some heavy side eye right now. Molly’s aware. But she said she’s protecting herself.

“I don’t trust companies any longer. Are they gonna give me a promotion? Are they gonna give me a raise?” she said. “No, I found a way to give myself a raise.”

Financial security is a big reason why people take on multiple jobs.

“It allows people to have more control over what they’re doing, when they’re doing it, how they’re doing it,” said Brianna Caza, a management professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

But Caza thinks overemployment is about more than money. It also reflects a skepticism of capitalism and how much workers feel they owe their employers.

“I definitely see that as being really similar to this idea of quiet quitting,” she said.

Overemployment can be an attitude, a mentality, a lifestyle. Take Aaron — again, not a real name. He’s a technical writer on the West Coast who’s been overemployed on and off for the last three years. 

“It’s like a game. They think you are the pawn. But you’re making more money than your boss,” he said. “And you feel like a gangster.”

Aaron doesn’t exactly advertise this to his friends. But the way he sees it, both companies profited from his work. So if people who are overemployed can complete everything they’re asked to do, then he can take liberties too.

“We can do what is in our right to make more money,” he said.

Working multiple jobs is legal, though contracts often have noncompete clauses, and going against them could be grounds for termination.

That’s not how the end of Aaron’s overemployment story goes. He’s only working one job now, after getting an offer he couldn’t turn down.

“It’s only one job, but it’s equal to three jobs,” he said. “The only time I have is to shower, eat and sleep. There’s no other time.”

He said he might go back to working two less demanding jobs someday. Life was easier when he was overemployed. 

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.