5 Thoughts on the Promise and Peril of Multitasking

More and more people are working not one, but two full-time jobs. Some do it for the money, others for creative fulfillment. But is it a good idea? This may depend on your goals and style.

The new trend of multitasking (working more than one full-time job) will affect you whether you’re one of the 40% of workers who do it or not—because your colleagues or team members may be working this new way —with implications for focus, tracking, and motivation that affect everyone.

Polywork is not the same as a side hustle. Both are on the rise, but true multitasking is employed in multiple full-time jobs. Side hustles, on the other hand, are your endeavors in a supporting role—rather than another full-time role.

If you’re planning to work more than one full-time job, there are some considerations to be aware of—because it’s not a panacea. Besides some positives, there are definitely some cons.

The tendency

40% of people say they multitask, and Gen Z are more likely to work more than one full-time job — with 46% working, according to a Paychex poll. Sometimes people work so much because they are trying to make ends meet, but others do it because of the opportunity to be involved in interesting work or because they want to develop their career.

Most of those with multiple full-time jobs are freelancers (92%) or at entry-level positions in their organizations (79%). Those least likely to multitask are senior level employees. And the industries most likely to have employees working multiple full-time jobs are technology, advertising/marketing, and finance.

The trend toward multitasking—for those who are doing it by choice, rather than solely due to economic imperative—is driven by the influence of technology-enabled work from anywhere and the extent to which companies enable remote and hybrid work. This can also be seen in the poll numbers. Those who work remotely are more likely to multitask (81%), followed by those who work hybrids (79%).

Thoughts on Polywork

Having more than one full-time job has some advantages, but it also has challenges—for you, your team, and your employer. So if you are enter (by choice and not because you have to for financial reasons), it is wise to have a clear sense of what you might be in for.

#1 – Your goals and needs

The first consideration is your own goals and needs. Think about why you want multiple full-time jobs—and whether you’ll have the energy to do so many. In Paychex data, people said they value multitasking for flexibility (59%), extra income (50%), freedom (50%), energy (37%) and because it’s a creative outlet (24%) .

If you have the time and energy, multitasking might be for you. If you love the variety, fast pace and thrill of juggling multiple responsibilities, great. Just be careful not to overextend yourself.

If you’re going from a positive, stimulating experience to a frantic pace of running from one thing to another, it might be a good idea to take a step back, regroup, and reevaluate whether you’re getting what you need versus the energy I’m expending.

#2 – Your people

Also think about your people. If you’re working an additional full-time job because you thrive on the pace, but don’t have time for your family, friends, or community, you may be undermining your fulfillment. Connecting with others, having space to relax, and volunteering in your community all correlate with happiness.

Working another full-time job might give you the extra resources to take a family vacation, but if you’re never seen for dinner, it might not be worth it. Multitasking may win you admiration from friends who appreciate your ambition or growth, but if they never get a chance to chat with you over coffee, you may be jeopardizing relationships.

If you work so hard that you can’t make time for these kinds of pursuits, you might want to reevaluate not only if you’re getting what you need, but also if your people are getting what they need from you.

#3 – Your mental health

Mental health is also an issue. In the research, when multitaskers were compared to those who worked only one job, they were more likely to feel burned out and stressed. And they were also less likely to feel inspired.

A full life and meaningful work are linked to joy—and it’s important to be able to focus on things you value. Make sure you can really get involved in the work you do and make sure you have the time to do your best.

Too many responsibilities can create situations of scarcity – you never feel like you have enough time to do things as well as you’d like. And they can create situations that are superficial—you skim the surface, don’t learn deeply, avoid improving your work, or fail to connect with colleagues.

The ideal is a golden approach in which you have enough stimulation, variety and positive stress to keep you interested and motivated — but not so much that you lose energy or interest in what you’re doing.

#4 – Your performance

In addition to what you get from the working model you choose, you’ll also want to think about what you’re giving. When you perform well and feel good about your contributions, they are a source of happiness—so your performance benefits not only your organization, but you as well.

In the survey, people with multiple full-time jobs were less likely to feel productive, less likely to feel engaged in their work, and more likely to want a different job (read: dissatisfied with their job).

Additionally, compared to those who worked only one full-time job, they were less likely to stay with their current employer (54%). They were also slower to learn and develop in their jobs (46%) and were more likely to have poor organizational skills (45%), frequent tardiness/absenteeism (33%), poor communication (28%) and difficulty integrating into corporate culture (24%).

Your performance is your brand. It gives you a sense of appreciation and is critical to your credibility, contribution and career advancement. Trying to do too many things can make anything worse – so it’s wise to be selective in how you invest in yourself – making sure you can perform well in whatever you do.

#5 – Your integrity and your future

Integrity is also a critical element. If you work more than one full-time job, you’ll want to be open with your employer. If you feel you have to keep a secret, you may not be doing the right thing for you or your organization. Be transparent about your schedule so team members know when they can contact you and reassure your employer that you’re not working for a competitor.

If you’re working more than one full-time job because your employer isn’t making enough use of your skills or providing growth opportunities, you can communicate your goals and talk about your potential, giving them a sense of what you can do and where you want to go.

And if you don’t feel like you’re getting what you need from your current organization, it might be wise to find a different full-time role — one that you can fully commit to and that better fits your present and future — rather than stretching out the yourself too thin in responsibilities that only partially cover your needs.

Find your app

Having multiple full-time jobs can be appealing for variety, creative outlet, and extra cash. But think about whether it really satisfies you or creates too much rush and fuss. And think about your friends, family, community and employer. Doing your best is good for you, and good for those around you—and that can be the most fulfilling of all.

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