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New research shows side hustles can improve full-time job performance

The study, co-authored by a professor from the University of Iowa, finds that those working on the sidelines like Uber, Airbnb or Etsy are likely to see a positive performance boost in their full-time jobs.


New research, co-authored by a professor at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, has found that working “hustle” can improve an individual’s full-time performance.

The research was conducted by workers who participate in secondary hustle, another way of earning money outside of their main job. Workers took part in activities in the food delivery industry, arts and crafts and property rental services, while looking at a range of different full-time industries, including teachers and nurses.

Jennifer Nahrgang, professor of management and entrepreneurship at Tippie, said the research demonstrates the value of having a side hustle.

“Contrary to what most people might think, that lateral shoving impairs full-time performance, we actually found that engaging in lateral shoving on a daily basis generated positive emotions. [and] positive energy that has helped improve performance in your full-time job,” Nahrgang said.

Nahrgang defined side hustles as any income-generating work performed outside of full-time work commitments in the study. She said “moonlighting”, or working a second job, has become more common in the gig economy – where freelance or short-term contract jobs are the norm.

Companies like Uber, Fiverr and Etsy, she said, provide a platform for workers to earn extra money. Nahrgang said the obvious benefit is a second source of income, but the research suggests that companies’ opinions of workers who have secondary hustles should change, given that there are more positives than negatives. .

“There are benefits to doing side hustles that we probably hadn’t thought of before,” Nahrgang said. “The fact that [employees] feel empowered by them, they feel engaged, and they see positive benefits for their job performance.

The research determined improved performance, Nahrgang said, by interviewing the co-workers of several participants and asking if the employee was performing essential parts of their job well.

Hudson Sessions, assistant professor at the University of Oregon and co-author of the study, admitted that the results were not completely positive, but more positive than negative.

“We found that there is a positive symbiosis between a side hustle and a full-time job,” Sessions said. “A caveat to this is that we have found that they are a bit more distracted in their full-time jobs. This positive experience of empowerment, people cling to it a bit.

The co-worker surveys used in the research, Sessions said, were conducted over the course of a few weeks to provide a large dataset with which to generalize the data.

“We were able to compare what colleagues said about the employee throughout the study period,” Sessions said. “We found that employees performed better the days following these empowering lateral shake experiences.”

While Sessions said he wouldn’t recommend making gig work like Airbnb and Lyft a full-time job, he said a good balance between the two can be positive for worker output.

“I would say the side hustle has been branded purely as a distraction,” Sessions said. “I think it opens up avenues to consider the match between the two, that it can be a positive thing. People need to keep their health insurance, they want the stability of a full-time job, but these jostling secondary can add something.

Sessions said he was interested in conducting this research because of the proximity and societal prevalence of gig work. A friend of his, he said, bought a car and paid for it just by working for Uber.

“I participate in so many of these things,” Sessions said, citing side hustles such as DoorDash, Lyft and Airbnb. “I’m really curious about the people behind these services. A big part of the story for these people is that they are full-time employees elsewhere and it’s just a side hustle for them, and there’s a lot more to their working life.

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