Embracing the gig economy- Side gig or side hustle?

The gig economy has grown significantly over the past few years. Suddenly, anyone can take up any occupation from anywhere. What does this mean for employers?

Embracing the gig economy- Side gig or side hustle?

Whoever told you money can’t buy you happiness is wrong. In fact, money can buy you some form of happiness and is never enough. You’ve probably also heard that holding one job is financially insufficient.

Of course, we’re not talking about two full-time jobs… we’re referring to side gigs. Attributing its boom to digital platforms like Airbnb, Uber and Deliveroo, side gigs allow people to earn extra money without formal employment. The best part? Increased earnings!

In 2020, however, money- or the lack thereof took center attention. Covid-19 has brought about financial instability along with pay cuts, unemployment and/or business disruptions. Both employer and employee have been pushed to mitigate their losses, bringing the spotlight back onto side gigs more than ever. It appears that the gig economy is set to be the future, at least until Covid-19 blows over.

How should the idea of side gigs be approached then? Should it be frowned upon or encouraged?

Quarantine-induced ventures

A quick Google search on ‘side gig’ bombards you with information on the ‘best and most profitable’ side gigs to take up in the year.

(source: Google search of ‘Side Gig’)

This is no surprise, considering how Covid-19 has changed the way we work. Most employees no longer have to commute to and from work daily, providing them with more free time. Evidence of a more flexible schedule can be seen in quarantine trends which popped up everywhere- from Dalgona Coffee to binge-watching on Netflix.

(source: The Independent Florida Alligator / Aubrey Bocalan)

While these may seem like fun ways to pass the time, some workers have turned their quarantine pastimes into businesses. Bakers, tea brewers, petsitters-you name it. Maximised time and earnings? Who can say no?

But is it really all about the money?

Extra streams of income aside, side gigs promote personal growth which can lead to increased productivity at workers' day job. Just like having work-life balance, side gigs offer people with opportunities their day job can’t.

Aurelia, a UX Researcher from  55 Minutes, a Potato company, is also a baker (Get some delicious bakes from Aurelia here!) in her free time. To her, the most rewarding part of a side gig lies in its process:

"It all started with pineapple tarts! It was my first Chinese New Year living in Singapore this year, when I realised that it's a tradition to gift pineapple tarts here. I went through so many though I wasn't a fan - they're either too sweet, too tangy, or the dough is just bland, not to mention they're pretty pricey!

... So I decided to research & develop a more exciting version that I grew to love!”

(source: Instagram/ @ella.etc.bakes)

Her business now sells unorthodox pineapple tarts, specifically ones with pineapple and 3 types of cheeses (Interesting!) along with other baked goods. She treasures the freeplay element of baking, something her research-driven main job has less of.  

Fun fact: Aurelia’s supervisor at work participates in the research & development process of her bakes as a trusted tester!

So… what is it then?

When workers have the freedom and space to engage in projects unrelated to their main job,  they’re likely to feel happier and more productive at work. Additionally, side gigs provide workers with learning opportunities that can complement and enhance their main job:

1. Dare-try attitude

A side gig pushes workers to try new things, especially in skill-based jobs like baking and design-related services. For Aurelia, baking has allowed her to dabble in designing social media posts, menus etc. which she can potentially tie back to 55 Minutes- a UI/UX company.

This is not limited to picking up new skills, though. Side gigs can help further polish what employees already know. For Bella, a Communications Specialist in the public sector and freelance writer for a startup, side gigs help her adapt to different working styles. Bella’s main job adopts a more corporate and cautious approach to promoting products/services. Whilst her side gig is more focused on generating sales and leads.  

“I was keen to try my hand at creating, shaping and owning my own narrative. This company’s structure is vastly different from where I currently work – I was curious about the culture and working style, and hence decided to give it a shot.”

2. Time well spent, literally

Being an employee can be boring at times, a rinse and repeat process on the daily. Sometimes, they just want a change of routine- To handle their personal project timelines, finances, social media etc. For employees tired of being cooped up at home, this is a sure-fire way to counter boredom and boost productivity!

(source: Giphy)

3. Drawing flexible boundaries

With two jobs, workers are pushed to juggle time between both businesses. While this may feel hard to do, there’s now an added advantage of flexibility- both jobs can be done from their humble abode!

Toffy, an employee at Potato and co-founder of MindTerra, is even managing both jobs remotely from another country. She finds time management to be relatively easy, especially without the commute to the office. MindTerra’s team has even expanded from two to six in about a year!

(source: MindTerra)

On top of that, having two jobs encourages her to cut off from her main job after hours to focus on passion-project-turned-business MindTerra, a mental wellness journaling platform to help people feel less isolated and tap into self-reflection. Working on MindTerra has also allowed her to apply her learnings and opportunities from there to her main role at Potato.

On one occasion, she found a social enterprise development program that seemed suitable for MindTerra on first impression; however, she decided not to pursue the opportunity with MindTerra and instead applied for it with a Potato company. The application was successful and the Potato company received the opportunity, one that came about through working on MindTerra.

What you stand to gain?
Many employers may wonder, “ What’s in it for me?” as workers bring up the idea of side gigs. We hear you, your employees having side gigs may seem like betrayal, moonlighting and distraction from their main job. It doesn’t have to be this way!

( source: Randstad Risesmar)

We spoke to Nicholas, Chief Technology Officer at LittleLives for some thoughts on side gigs:

  1. Employee retention

“When employers express disinterest in workers having side gigs, what makes you think they wouldn’t go do it anyway?


Allowing side gigs is a signal that the employer is committed to their employees reaching their goals. Such a program could effectively improve employee retention”

Establishing trust and open, honest communication also goes a long way for employee retention. Nicholas makes it a point to have regular chats with employees to chart their personal and professional goals. This process helps both parties understand each other and encourage growth, beyond the job. Afterall, work is only one aspect of a multi-faceted life.

When goals are aligned, risks commonly associated with side gigs like deception, distrust and divided attention can be communicated and resolved easily.

1. Diversifying costs

“Mutual benefits for companies and individuals to have selective short term commitments.”

While being open to side gigs isn’t purely monetary, it does have its cost benefits. Side gigs give you the ability to scale up your workforce quickly without commiting permanent staff!

In this new normal, you can even hire someone in another country to work remotely. Goodbye geographical boundaries!

You may be wondering-
With so many gig workers, what about salaried workers?

In some tech companies, freelance workers are regularly engaged for short-term projects that require less commitment. This means less cost incurred for the company and protection of salaried employees interests as they work on more fulfilling, long-form projects.

2. Widening your network

Just like Toffy’s MindTerra successful application situation, side gigs can expand your company’s network when there’s an overlap. At the same time, you encourage your employees to make connections and build relationships as a professional outside of your company.

3. Avoiding a bubble

“You can develop a variety of different skills in parallel when you are you exposed to more than one environment”

Versatility prevents stagnation and comfort, especially in a time where the pandemic can abruptly rob you of your occupation. It’s time to cast the net further! Who knows what you might get?

Our guess? Happy, well-rounded employees who will remember the growth you let them have!

With the pandemic’s mark to be felt for a while more, personal growth should supplement employee loyalty. It’s time to make the shift to more holistic and beneficial routines for both employer and employee!

“I truly believe that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.”

- Richard Branson