What’s your (in)side hustle?



In uncertain times, the side hustle can be an economic necessity. But as more millennials seek greater fulfilment in employment over greater pay, this side hustle is evolving into a central part of working life. The question of a work/life balance has slowly turned into the question of what ‘my work’ says about ‘my life’.

A generation that began their careers with the turmoil of the 2008 recession want meaning in their working lives and the flexibility that comes with control, and today’s employees won’t hesitate to move on if their talents aren’t stimulated. 

All about the money?

Money may quantify the value of work, but money is no substitute for fulfilment. But can the skills and sense of purpose derived from the passion project be cultivated in the workplace? Instead of accepting a division of labour between employment and fulfilment, perhaps the side role can become the leading part?

Henley Business School estimates that one in four workers run ‘at least one side hustle business’. Furthermore, research by Department 26 states that 44% of millennial workers now prioritise roles they’re passionate about over higher wages.

While previous generations were chiefly concerned with being ‘good providers’, millennials want to make an ‘impact’, with a meaningful working life central to how they derive meaning from life in general. But when this notion of ‘purpose’ supersedes even economic enrichment, what are the consequences for the workplace? When fulfilment becomes the primary motivation, does it actually become harder to be fulfilled?  How can employers adapt to a changing mindset?

What’s your five-year plan?

While 50% of millennials plan to remain in their role for five or more years, this is contingent on them finding value in their position and seeing the potential for swift promotions. Millennials want to assume leadership roles quickly and exercise a degree of control over their working lives. This need for control is demonstrated by the importance millennials place on flexible working hours, with time outside of the day job diverted to passion projects.

However, the side hustle and the pursuit of meaning in the day job don’t have to be mutually exclusive. With social media and technology now facilitating an extra source of income for many employees, it’s important to consider how you can adapt to their needs. What does ‘value’ in your employees’ working lives actually mean to them? How can the skills and experiences from their passion projects be transferred to the day job?

Value of the side hustle to an employer

Whether it’s the Customer Support worker who sells jewellery on Instagram, or the IT technician who moonlights as a writer, there is an inherent value in an employee’s side hustle. A recent study by Hudson Sessions highlights the positive effect that these passion projects can have on performance. Critically, the study draws attention to the enthusiasm an employee may have for their side hustle and how this energy is often brought to their full time role. While this positive mindset may be the afterglow of personal fulfilment, it must also be seen as an opportunity to understand where an employee perceives value in their working life. 

A side hustle will often operate without the hierarchical structure of office employment. An employee who thrives in this setting attests to the type of entrepreneurial individual who has the capacity to manage projects. In addition, a successfully run side project requires the ability to network and to build a client base. With communication and knowledge sharing key to creating an inclusive workplace culture and vital to success, your employee’s client-handling experience could be utilised and shared amongst colleagues.

Provide side hustle opportunities inside the company 

The sense of meaning gained from a side hustle is often derived from a feeling of ownership. This isn’t simply the consequence of pursuing something you love, but knowing it’s your creation with some part of your DNA contained within it. If chasing a lucrative full-time role for financial reasons could be described as ‘selling your soul’, the passion project is where the remnants of your soul are kept. This feeling of purpose acquired through owning a role can also be applied to the workplace. If employers are having to adapt their mindset to a changing environment, then it’s possible to consider how an employee’s perception of ‘work’ might also be changed. 

Giving your employees the freedom to choose projects that match their interests offers them the chance to view their work differently. Far from being the onerous ‘daily grind’, a complementary relationship between the side hustle and the full-time role could see both enriched. If the passion project is inherently creative, then consider how your employee can showcase their creativity. If the side hustle is people focussed, place your employee in an environment that promotes their human skills.

Offering your employees the opportunity to grow in roles that match their skills requires understanding them first. Mentoring can play a key role in recognising where your employees’ motivations lie and how to extract the maximum from them. When instilled across an organisation, mentoring gives employers an overview of where the most effective collaborations can be found and actively encouraged.

Furthermore, mentoring itself enables an employee to own a leadership role and derive meaning from seeing a mentee successfully tread the path they were once on. Most importantly, mentoring allows employees to be heard and to potentially create projects that inspire them. Providing inside hustles empowers your employees to put their voices into action and will have a transformative impact on both your organisation and their relationship with it.

Photo by Anthony Young on Unsplash

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