Three-minute explainer on… double dipping

Double dipping is the latest buzzword being bandied about by executives who fear their staff might be doing a second job on company time

Three-minute explainer

In an unintended consequence of the shift to remote working, some home-based workers have seized the opportunity to covertly take on a second full-time job.

The trend first emerged in the wake of the pandemic where it was seen as a way to improve job security in an unpredictable labour market. Others saw it as a route to early retirement by doubling, or sometimes even tripling, their salaries. Business Insider spoke to one job juggler who claimed to be on track to earn a combined annual salary of $820,000 from his three gigs at Meta, IBM and Tinder.

While taking on a second job is nothing new – the etymology of moonlighting can be traced back to 1957 – what was novel was the fact that both jobs could now be completed during the same working hours, as home-working took staff away from the watchful eyes of managers.

Early practitioners of this dual job trend referred to themselves as overemployed but now a new term has been coined by McKinsey: the double dippers.

Should employers be worried about double dippers?

According to the management consultancy, it’s a growing phenomenon. It estimates that around 5% of the workforce in a typical organisation are engaged in this form of subterfuge.

Another figure, from recruitment site Monster, suggests double dipping is a much bigger phenomenon. Its survey of 1,000 US workers at the start of the year placed the total number of two-timers at 37%.

These figures have spooked some executives, who now fear their staff are dividing their attentions between multiple employers. But, although there is growing interest in this trend, the true number of double dippers is likely to be far from the estimates of McKinsey and Monster.

When we first reported on overemployment in 2021, a channel on social platform Discord, which was set up for people to share advice on working multiple jobs, had 450 members. It now counts 55,290 people among its ranks. However, it’s worth remembering that many members will only have a passing interest in double dipping. 

Even if every member was working two or more jobs, this would only represent 0.03% of the total US workforce and is nowhere near the 5% of the typical organisation’s employee base that McKinsey estimates.

This is not to say that it doesn’t happen. The National Fraud Initiative is currently investigating multiple British council workers who are alleged to have had undeclared secondary employment. However, business leaders can be reassured that this is not as widespread as some are claiming. 

Those who are engaged in the ruse often report becoming burnt out and soon go back to working one position. Employers also hold the trump card in the fact that covertly working two jobs simultaneously is widely regarded to be a sackable offence. 

Also, with many companies pushing for a return to the office, it seems unlikely that these double dippers will be able to continue holding down multiple jobs when asked to work in person.