Overemployment as anti-precarity strategy

    Historically, the way we fought back against oppressive employers and repressive regimes was to band together into unions. The collective bargaining power would help improve conditions and pay.

    These days, in a world of the gig economy and hyper-individualism, that kind of collectivisation is on the wane. Enter remote workers deciding to take matters into their own hands, working multiple full-time jobs and being rewarded handsomely.

    It’s interesting to notice that it seems to be very much a male, tech worker thing though. Of course, given that this was at the top of Hacker News, it will be used as an excuse to even more closely monitor the 99% of remote workers who aren’t doing this.

    Person with cup of coffee between two working desks
    Holding down multiple jobs has long been a backbreaking way for low-wage workers to get by. But since the pandemic, the phenomenon has been on the rise among professionals like Roque, who have seized on the privacy provided by remote work to secretly take on two or more jobs — multiplying their paychecks without working much more than a standard 40-hour workweek. The move is not only culturally taboo, but it's also a fireable offense — one that could expose the cheaters to a lawsuit if they're caught. To learn their methods and motivations, I spent several weeks hanging out among the overemployed online. What, I wondered, does this group of W-2 renegades have to tell us about the nature of work — and of loyalty — in the age of remote employment?

    […]

    The OE hustlers have some tried-and-true hacks. Taking on a second or third full-time job? Given how time-consuming the onboarding process can be, you should take a week or two of vacation from your other jobs. It helps if you can stagger your jobs by time zone — perhaps one that operates during New York hours, say, and another on California time. Keep separate work calendars for each job — but to avoid double-bookings, be sure to block off all your calendars as soon as a new meeting gets scheduled. And don’t skimp on the tech that will make your life a bit easier. Mouse jigglers create the appearance that you’re online when you’re busy tending to your other jobs. A KVM switch helps you control multiple laptops from the same keyboard.

    Some OE hustlers brag about shirking their responsibilities. For them, being overemployed is all about putting one over on their employers. But most in the community take pride in doing their jobs, and doing them well. That, after all, is the single best way to avoid detection: Don’t give your bosses — any of them — a reason to become suspicious.

    […]

    The consequences for getting caught actually appear to be fairly low. Matthew Berman, an employment attorney who has emerged as the unofficial go-to lawyer in the OE community, hasn’t encountered anyone who has been hit with a lawsuit for holding a second job. “Most of the time, it’s not going to be worth suing an employee,” he says. But many say the stress of the OE life can get to you. George, the software engineer, has trouble sleeping at night because of his fear of getting caught. Others acknowledge that the rigors of juggling multiple jobs have hurt their marriages. One channel on the OE Discord is dedicated to discussions of family life, mostly among dads with young kids. People in the channel sometimes ask for relationship advice, and the responses they get from the other dads are sweet. “Your regard for your partner,” one person advised of marriage, “should outweigh your desire for validation."

    Source: ‘Overemployed’ Workers Secretly Juggle Several Jobs for Big Salaries | Business Insider

    EaaS : Employee as a Service

    This is humorous, but also we should remind ourselves that bosses need workers, but workers don't need bosses 🤘

    Interviewee explaining to interviewer that they have a 'variety of plans to meet your needs'. Things like overtime, personal number being available, and working with a smile are listed under 'Premium'.

    Source: EaaS : ProgrammerHumor

    Motivating people who don't need a job

    There are two kinds of people who don’t need the job you’re providing for them. The first kind is the independently wealthy. The second kind is the person with an in-demand skillset (or rare knowledge/experience).

    The last time I was employed, I kept reminding my boss that I came from consulting and I could always go back to it. And that’s what I did. Employers whose main way of motivating employees is to implicitly threaten them with ‘not having a job’ aren’t worth working for.

    You should manage all of your employees as if they don’t “need” their jobs and have other options — whether those options are family money or the ability to go out and get another job with their skills.There are two reasons for that:
    1. Assuming you’re hiring good people, it’s very likely they do have other options. It might be a pain for someone to leave and find another job, but generally it’s something people are able to do.

    2. Using someone’s paycheck as your primary leverage might be effective in the very short-term, but it’s rarely a way to build or retain an engaged, invested staff in the long-term.

    The way you motivate someone who doesn’t need the money is the same way you should motivate people who do need the money: by giving them meaningful roles with real responsibility where they can see how their efforts contribute to a larger whole, giving them an appropriate amount of ownership over their work and input into decisions that involve that work, providing useful feedback, recognizing their contributions, helping them feel they’re making progress toward things that matter to them, and — importantly — not doing things that de-motivate people (like yelling or constantly shifting goals or generally being a jerk).

    Source: how do I manage an employee who doesn’t need the job? | Ask a Manager

    Valuing and signalling your skills

    When I rocked up to the MoodleMoot in Miami back in November last year, I ran a workshop that involved human spectrograms, post-it notes, and participatory activities. Although I work in tech and my current role is effectively a product manager for Moodle, I still see myself primarily as an educator.

    This, however, was a surprise for some people who didn’t know me very well before I joined Moodle. As one person put it, “I didn’t know you had that in your toolbox”. The same was true at Mozilla; some people there just saw me as a quasi-academic working on web literacy stuff.

    Given this, I was particularly interested in a post from Steve Blank which outlined why he enjoys working with startup-like organisations rather than large, established companies:

    It never crossed my mind that I gravitated to startups because I thought more of my abilities than the value a large company would put on them. At least not consciously. But that’s the conclusion of a provocative research paper, Asymmetric Information and Entrepreneurship, that explains a new theory of why some people choose to be entrepreneurs. The authors’ conclusion — Entrepreneurs think they are better than their resumes show and realize they can make more money by going it alone.And in most cases, they are right.
    If you stop and think for a moment, it's entirely obvious that you know your skills, interests, and knowledge better than anyone who hires you for a specific role. Ordinarily, they're interested in the version of you that fits the job description, rather than you as a holistic human being.

    The paper that Blank cites covers research which followed 12,686 people over 30+ years. It comes up with seven main findings, but the most interesting thing for me (given my work on badges) is the following:

    If the authors are right, the way we signal ability (resumes listing education and work history) is not only a poor predictor of success, but has implications for existing companies, startups, education, and public policy that require further thought and research.
    It's perhaps a little simplistic as a binary, but Blank cites a 1970s paper that uses 'lemons' and 'cherries' as a metaphors to compare workers:
    Lemons Versus Cherries. The most provocative conclusion in the paper is that asymmetric information about ability leads existing companies to employ only “lemons,” relatively unproductive workers. The talented and more productive choose entrepreneurship. (Asymmetric Information is when one party has more or better information than the other.) In this case the entrepreneurs know something potential employers don’t – that nowhere on their resume does it show resiliency, curiosity, agility, resourcefulness, pattern recognition, tenacity and having a passion for products.

    This implication, that entrepreneurs are, in fact, “cherries” contrasts with a large body of literature in social science, which says that the entrepreneurs are the “lemons”— those who cannot find, cannot hold, or cannot stand “real jobs.”

    My main takeaway from this isn’t necessarily that entrepreneurship is always the best option, but that we’re really bad at signalling abilities and finding the right people to work with. I’m convinced that using digital credentials can improve that, but only if we use them in transformational ways, rather than replicate the status quo.

    Source: Steve Blank

    What's the link between employment and creativity?

    These days, we tend to think of artists as working on their art full-time. After all, it’s their passion and vocation. That’s not always the case, as this article points out:

    The avant-garde composer Philip Glass shocked at least one music lover when he materialized, smock-clad and brandishing plumber’s tools, in a home with a malfunctioning appliance. “While working,” Glass recounted to The Guardian in 2001, “I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him that I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish.”
    Art and employment aren't necessarily separate spheres, but can influence one another:

    But then there is another category of artists-with-jobs: people whose two professions play off each other in unexpected ways. For these creators, a trade isn’t just about paying the bills; it’s something that grounds them in reality. In 2017, a day job might perform the same replenishing ministries as sleep or a long run: relieving creative angst, restoring the artist to her body and to the texture of immediate experience. But this break is also fieldwork. For those who want to mine daily life for their art, a second job becomes an umbilical cord fastened to something vast and breathing. The alternate gig that lifts you out of your process also supplies fodder for when that process resumes. Lost time is regained as range and perspective, the artist acquiring yet one more mode of inhabiting the world.

    It's all very well being in your garret creating art, but what about your self-development and responsibility to society?

    Some cultivate their art because it sustains their work, or because it fulfills a sense of civic responsibility. Writing children’s literature “has helped me grow in confidence as a person, which in turn has helped me develop … as an officer, too,” said Gavin Puckett, a U.K.-based policeman (it remains his primary income source) and author of the prizewinning 2013 “Fables From the Stables” series. Puckett, who joined the service in 1998, sketched the rhyming adventure “Murray the Horse” after passing a horse in a field while listening to a radio announcer report on “sports and activities you can only complete backwards” — he imagined a story about a horse that runs in reverse. He admits that telling stories still makes him feel as though he’s “stepping out of character.” “My role as a police officer came first,” he told me.

    Perhaps it's because I'm recently employed, or don't really see myself as an 'artist', but I like the final section of this article
    The trope of the secluded creator has echoes of imprisonment and stasis. (After all, who wants to spend all their time in one room, even if it belongs to them?) Sometimes the artist needs to turn off, to get out in the fray, to stop worrying over when her imagination’s pot will boil — because, of course, it won’t if she’s watching. And regardless of whether the reboot results in brilliance down the line, that lunchtime stroll isn’t going to take itself, those stray thoughts won’t think themselves, the characters on the corner certainly won’t gawk at themselves. Artists: They’re just like us, unless they can afford not to be, in which case they still are, but doing a better job of concealing it.
    Source: The New York Times Style Magazine