The Dichotomy of Side Hustles in Singapore’s Work Culture

The Dichotomy of Side Hustles in Singapore's Work Culture

In the contemporary era, the concept of side hustles has become a prominent aspect of the work culture in Singapore. As the digital landscape evolves, more people are leveraging technology to pursue part-time gigs alongside their regular jobs.

These days, it’s common to hear Gen Z and some millennials making a full-time income working from home with only their laptop. This article delves into the prevalence of side hustles among full-time employees in Singapore, the potential conflicts it can create, and the different perspectives around this trend.

The Emergence of Side Hustling as a Norm

The Emergence of Side Hustling as a Norm
Photo by Vanessa Garcia on

With an increasing number of Singaporeans embracing side hustles, it’s clear that the notion has shed its negative connotations.

Unlike in the past, where moonlighting was frowned upon, side hustling today is seen as a savvy move by career-oriented individuals. Recent statistics indicate that around 54% of Singaporeans were engaged in side gigs as of 2017. The shift towards remote working has further spurred the growth of this trend.

Apart from having the ability to earn income online, side hustlers love the idea of flexibility when it comes to working. To them, not having a 9-to-5 to hold them back on their income growth is a major plus point.

However, it’s crucial to note that while side hustles offer additional earning opportunities, they may not always be viewed favorably by employers. Some companies perceive them as a potential conflict of interest, and certain employment contracts may even prohibit them, leading to legal complications. Thus, managing both full-time employment and side hustle obligations is a delicate balancing act.

The Challenges of Juggling a 9-to-5 and Side Hustles

Many full-time employees exhibit hesitance towards taking up freelance projects, despite having the ability to do so. The challenge lies in effectively balancing professional responsibilities with the demands of a side gig. It requires careful planning, time management, and open communication to avoid potential conflicts.

Juggling work and side hustles

Jodi Chik balancing her job and DJ gigs

Real-Life Examples of Successful Side Hustlers

Despite these challenges, several individuals have successfully managed to navigate the complexities of side hustling. For instance, Jodi Chik, a group account director at DDB Group Hong Kong, moonlights as a DJ. She finds that her side hustle offers her new perspectives and enhances her performance in her day job. Similarly, Rogier Bikker, managing director of Media. Monks China runs a zero-calorie premium tea brand called Highlite during his free time.

Conflicts of Interest and Ethical Dilemmas

While some employers encourage and support side hustles, not all share this viewpoint. When the lines between professional responsibilities and side hustles blur, it can lead to conflicts of interest and ethical dilemmas. For instance, Wipro, an Indian multinational IT company, dismissed 300 employees for moonlighting with a competitor.

Is Side Hustling Unethical?

This raises an important question: Is it unethical to work more than one job while being a full-time employee? Ajit Narayan, CMO of brand advocacy platform, Socxo, believes that employees should opt for contract work if they wish to work multiple jobs. He argues that side hustling as a full-time employee is unethical unless the employment contract allows it.

On the other hand, several industry leaders believe that side hustles can bring a wealth of benefits, provided they do not conflict with the agency or client’s interests.

The Pros and Cons of Side Hustling

Joash Thum, art director at VCCP Singapore, who co-founded a clothing line mobius mise, acknowledges the difficulties of managing a full-time job and a growing business. However, he emphasizes that with proper time management and the support of colleagues and business partners, it is possible to successfully juggle both.

Nina Kong's suit design

Nina Kong modelling a South Bund suit design

Nina Kong, strategy director at Media.Monks China, who co-founded South Bund, a custom suit designer for women, agrees. She stresses the importance of setting clear boundaries between work and side hustles, suggesting strategies such as checking side hustle-related communication only after work hours.

The Role of Employers in Supporting Side Hustles

While the debate around side hustles continues, some critics argue that the need for secondary jobs arises from unfulfilling or underpaying full-time roles. However, many professionals with side hustles believe that these ventures offer more than just financial benefits.

Marilyn Yeong, who runs one of Singapore’s largest dance equipment and apparel e-commerce stores alongside her role as regional client VP at Assembly, sees her side hustle as a source of motivation and inspiration. She believes it enhances her understanding of her clients’ perspective, aiding her in her full-time role.

However, she also acknowledges the challenge of managing time effectively and emphasizes the importance of mutual trust between employers and employees.

Marilyn Yeong

Marilyn Yeong, Regional Client VP at Assembly

The Win-Win Scenario for Employers and Employees

Tim Wood, executive creative director, Australia, Media.Monks, sees side hustles as a great creative outlet that helps individuals understand the intricacies of running a business. He believes that as long as side hustles do not interfere with an employee’s professional responsibilities, they should be encouraged.

Publicis Groupe, too, supports staff having side hustles. Pauly Grant, chief talent officer at Publicis Groupe, notes a cultural shift where employees are evaluating how work fits into their life, rather than the other way around. The company aims to support a truly enriching life experience, which includes encouraging side hustles.

Conclusion: Embracing the Changing Work Culture

As the work culture evolves, it’s clear that side hustles are becoming an integral part of it. While they pose certain challenges and potential conflicts, they also offer numerous benefits such as creative outlets, additional income, and new perspectives. As long as there’s a clear understanding and agreement between employers and employees, side hustles can be a win-win for both parties.

However, it’s essential to tread carefully, with a clear understanding of legal boundaries, contractual obligations, and ethical considerations. With proper planning, communication, and mutual trust, it’s possible to strike a balance between full-time work and side hustles, making the most of the opportunities that the digital age presents.

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