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  5. I caught my employee secretly working a second remote job. Here's why I decided to fire them — and why I think overemployment is sometimes unethical.

I caught my employee secretly working a second remote job. Here's why I decided to fire them and why I think overemployment is sometimes unethical.

Jacob Zinkula   

I caught my employee secretly working a second remote job. Here's why I decided to fire them — and why I think overemployment is sometimes unethical.
  • Patrick Synge fired one of his employees for secretly working a second remote job while on the clock.
  • He shared how he caught the employee and why he decided to fire them.

This as-told-to essay is based on an email conversation with Patrick Synge, the cofounder and chief commercial officer of the business-process-outsourcing and remote-recruitment company Metrickal. The business is headquartered in Barcelona and has 10 full time, fully remote employees, in addition to more than 200 contractors worldwide. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I'm the cofounder and CCO of a business where every employee works fully remotely. In January, I caught one of them secretly working a second full-time remote job.

Here's how it all played out — and why I decided to fire them.

My business is headquartered in Barcelona, but one of my employees was based in Peru. He was hired in 2022, and in the beginning, he did his job very well. But then, I started to receive complaints from clients about missed assignments and deadlines. He had also become quite unresponsive. These complaints from clients started to become somewhat regular.

When this employee started refusing certain shifts he usually worked, I became suspicious. I had a feeling that he was doing something on the side, but because there was no proof, I didn't want to jump to any conclusions.

So instead, I had one-on-one meetings with him to discuss his job performance. When the same issues continued, I told him that if things didn't change, I'd have to let him go.

While he showed some signs of improvement, his overall performance didn't change much. This put a significant burden on the rest of the team, who had to cover his shifts and deal with missed deadlines.

How I ultimately caught him

In December, unrelated to this particular employee, my company rolled out the time-tracking software called DeskTime.

My long-term goal is to introduce a four-day workweek at my company, and I decided the first step in this process would be understanding how my employees spend their time and what could be optimized to boost productivity.

So our entire team of full-time employees and freelance contractors started using DeskTime. They each had to install the app on their computers, so everyone was well aware that this was being implemented.

After a few weeks, I looked through the tracking data of the struggling employee and noticed there was another company's name — a US business — that regularly appeared in the data. It became clear to me that this employee had worked on some other company's tasks.

I fired them the next day.

The DeskTime data showed that the employee was using software during the workday that was unrelated to his job tasks. It also included a screenshot feature that captured his computer screen — and showed him working on a platform where the other company's name was visible.

Based on the DeskTime data, I estimate that he had spent close to half of his work time working for this other company. It seems that he forgot about the tracking software since once it's downloaded, it doesn't require any manual switching on and off.

To be honest, all the other signs — missed deadlines, lack of flexibility, and unresponsiveness at certain times — had already made me quite certain that he was doing something else during working hours. I would have probably fired him anyway, but the tracked data was the missing hard proof.

I believe he was working for the other company full time because soon after I fired him, he updated his LinkedIn profile to reflect that he was working full time at the other company.

Why I think overemployment is sometimes unethical

I know some people may judge me, but I generally don't support the trend of overemployment. I think it's sometimes unethical and just wrong.

First of all, I don't think it's fair to the rest of the team who have to cover up for someone else's low performance. This is why keeping this employee of mine in the company wasn't an option. He wasn't fair and respectful to the team, and that's something I can't tolerate — his actions were just selfish.

Secondly, I don't believe a person can productively do two jobs at the same time, even if you use AI or other tools. Their attention will be scattered, so the quality of their work will suffer. As an entrepreneur, I have to think about my business and clients first. I can't afford to lose clients because someone wants to make extra money.

I really don't mind people having side hustles to earn extra income. But this should be something they do on their own time and that doesn't affect the quality of their day job.

Are you working multiple remote jobs at the same time and willing to provide details about your pay and schedule? Has a coworker or employee of yours done so? If so, reach out to this reporter at jzinkula@businessinsider.com.

Correction: June 13, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated Patrick Synge's role at Metrickal. He's the chief commercial officer, not the CEO.


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