Bosses listen up: Having a side hustle actually makes workers feel more empowered at their day jobs, research finds

Bosses listen up: Having a side hustle actually makes workers feel more empowered at their day jobs, research finds
SB Arts Media/Getty Images
  • Side hustles may actually make employees better at their full time jobs, a 2021 study found.
  • Researcher Hudson Sessions spoke to The Wall Street Journal's As We Work podcast this week.

Bosses who are concerned about employees cheating on their day jobs with lucrative side hustles need not worry — having an extra gig might actually make workers more effective at their full-time positions, research shows.

Amid an uneasy economy, Americans are increasingly turning to side hustles. A December survey from LendingTree of nearly 2,100 US consumers found 44% of Americans have a side gig in addition to full-time work, a jump of 13% since 2020. And that number is even higher among Gen Z employees, 62% of whom said they have a side hustle.

Whether a side gig helps pay the bills, contributes to a big purchase, or offers an outlet for creative exploration, people are picking up extra work for a variety of reasons, especially as the market for doing so has become much more accessible with the internet.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More

But in addition to the practical perks, side hustles may also make employees better at their day jobs, Hudson Sessions, an assistant professor of management and organizations at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University told The Wall Street Journal's As We Work podcast this week.

"They can have these positive, enriching experiences that carry forward into their full-time work," Sessions told podcast producer Charlotte Gartenberg of side hustlers.


Sessions, who studies side hustles and how they affect worker satisfaction and performance, cited his own 2021 study, Do the Hustle! Empowerment from Side-Hustles and Its Effects on Full-Time Work Performance, which found that side gigs can actually make employees more productive at their day jobs simply because the extra outlet can offer empowerment and fulfillment.

Having a side hustle, he told The Journal, often makes people feel better about themselves, the impact of which can't be underestimated.

"People can experience that daily empowerment and then ultimately that carries through in these positive emotions in a way that can enrich the full-time work and actually make people perform just a little bit better on a day-to-day basis," Sessions said.

The perception of side gigs and those who have them has shifted in recent decades, Sessions told As We Work. But despite the growing acceptance of and participation in side hustle culture, some bosses may still be skeptical about their employees engaging in extra work on the side, concerned it might leave them less than fully dedicated to their full time gig while on the clock.

An overachiever who balances a full-time advertising job and two side gigs told Insider last year that entrepreneurs have to learn how allocate their free time so they can juggle full time work, side work, and a social life. Another side hustler said she sets aside certain days of the week to focus on each role.


"There's also research that points to an alternative perspective, which is that there is enrichment here, that people can pick up skills and perspectives, maybe have a variety of experiences and learn new things that are going to help them to be maybe a better full-time employee," Sessions said.

In the 2021 study, researchers asked employees to track each day the varying degrees of empowerment they felt as a result of their side gigs and then tracked the changes over the course of a few weeks, looking at how those feelings impacted their emotions tied to their full-time positions as well.

The study did find that it was possible for workers to become so empowered by their side work that it left them feeling distracted while at their full-time job the following day. But the research also associated a common pathway in which people's positive emotions about their side hustle then positively impacted their lives at work.

"So when I say it can help your job, it will help your job to the extent that you can feel empowered by it," Sessions told the Journal. "So we're looking specifically at these day-to-day empowering experiences, assuming that you have some baseline level of empowerment that you can get from that side hustle."