Not retiring: the joys of portfolio working

Are professionals secretly working more than one full-time job or is overemployment more likely to be a phenomenon of lower paid workers and those who have taken lower pay to get flexibility?

Mid life man at laptop working remotely


I was reading an interesting article from the US the other day. By Sarah Green Carmichael, it was about the supposed myth of ‘overemployment’ – well paid professionals secretly doing second full-time jobs while working from home. Carmichael said the data supporting the so-called trend was questionable and that, in reality, only a small percentage of workers hold more than one job, and they are often in low-paying industries. These workers also earn less than those with a single job, she said.

She saw the overemployment issue as a fear tactic by managers worried about remote working, fear tactics caused by a still dominant presenteeism culture among managers.They fear what they can’t see rather than learning to manage differently, based on output and results more than bums on seats.

It’s interesting because I’m not sure how good the UK data is on people doing more than one job – the so-called portfolio career doesn’t receive a lot of attention and certainly many aspects of working life are not set up for it, from technology to employment law.

We know, for instance, that growing numbers are combining employed and self employed work, although the amount of commitment to self employment varies greatly.

For many it is about getting extra flexibility and that’s certainly my experience. I’m used to it by now, having done it for years, but the motivation for doing it was the lack of flexibility within the workplace and the lack of hybrid/remote jobs, particularly well paid ones.

There are many benefits to doing more than one job – not putting all your eggs in one basket at a time when the employment market is volatile or if you have had bad experiences from employers in the past; greater variety; and cross fertilisation between jobs are just some of the reasons.

For older workers doing more than one job can be a chance to get out of a rut, if you have been doing your substantive role for a while and feel a bit bored or neglected. It’s a chance to branch out and try something different. Yet doing more than one job can also be fairly exhausting, particularly if all the jobs are very busy at the same time.

In my experience people who do a number of jobs tend to be, as Carmichael says, lower paid because part-time senior roles are less available. With the cost of living crisis continuing, people are trying different things to get more money. Those who have caring responsibilities have less room for manoeuvre so need more flexibility. The major motivators for any increase in portfolio working – or expansion of portfolios – are therefore flexibility and pay. So rather than be afraid of something that isn’t happening and which they can monitor and manage for anyway – employers would be better placed looking at the why of portfolio working and addressing that.

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