Side hustles, also commonly referred to as side gigs or moonlighting jobs, can comprise a broad range of activities employees undertake outside of their normal work hours. Using their evenings, weekends, and vacations to engage in paid jobs, consulting, and freelancing, employees are pursuing side hustles in increasing numbers these days.

A side hustle often requires a significant investment of time and dedication, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But what makes the side hustle appealing to so many people? And how interested should employers be in employees who have one?

Why some employees get a side hustle (Hint: it’s not just about money)

In the past, it might have been less common for people working full-time to have a side hustle. But today, it seems more popular than ever. A 2021 Zapier survey revealed that one in three people said they had a side hustle. Of those, most said they had started their side hustle within the last three years.

Whether people take second jobs as part-time ride-share drivers or use their skills to start a business, side hustles can often deliver the extra cash people need to pay bills, save, and boost their disposable income. However, there are other reasons people pursue side hustles, and they have nothing to do with money. Those reasons include:

To have fun exploring a personal passion
To build new skills
To create a foundation for a future career change

For many, having a side hustle is a true labor of love. A survey conducted by The Hustle found that 76 percent of respondents said they loved their side hustle. Individuals with a side hustle not only enjoy the personal freedom that comes with pursuing an interest or passion, but they often learn to budget their time more efficiently and gain new opportunities to expand their professional network.

Why employers should care about side hustles

Despite all the benefits to the people engaged in side hustles, it’s easy to make the assumption that there’s not much upside for full-time employers. After all, a side hustle is an endeavor often completely separate from a person’s “day job.” But does that mean employers should turn a blind eye? 

Here are a few reasons why employers might want to pay attention to employee side hustles after all:

It may bring new skills to the workplace

Employees who pursue their passions outside of work may be gaining experience and skills that make them more effective in their full-time jobs. For example, a salesperson running a photography business side hustle can learn new skills about marketing and customer service, both of which can support becoming a better salesperson.

It builds a more entrepreneurially-minded employee

Building and maintaining a side hustle often requires a self-starter mentality and innovation skills, both of which can be helpful in any workplace. As one CEO wrote in Forbes about the value of side hustles, “Side hustlers sharpen a set of entrepreneurial skills that pay dividends in their current role, including initiative, customer empathy, and self-management. [It helps] people develop more of an understanding of the trials and tribulations of running a business once they’ve tried it themselves.”

It can improve transparency in the workplace

When employees work in an environment where their side hustle doesn’t have to be a secret, they can bring their full selves to work. Having healthy conversations about side hustles can also support transparency by helping employers to clarify rules about competitive side hustles and doing outside work during company hours.

Side hustles are here to stay

As long as people have interests they want to explore outside of their full-time work, there will likely always be a healthy number pursuing side hustles. And, full-time employment and side hustles can peacefully coexist. Rather than being a distraction to employees’ regular work, side hustles can benefit both employees and employers.