Polyamory has been making headlines lately, but there’s another “poly” trend on the rise: “Poly-employment,” or the practice of working more than one job. A recent study by Deputy, a workforce management platform, reveals a significant increase in poly-employed shift workers, shedding light on this emerging trend.

While the concept of holding multiple jobs to make ends meet is not new, Deputy’s study indicates a notable surge in poly-employment from 2021 to 2023. The data, drawn from 120,000 shift workers across the globe, shows a doubling of poly-employed shift workers during this period.

The majority of poly-employed individuals (78%) work in the hospitality sector, with 12% in healthcare, 6% in retail, and 5% in the service industry. Notably, 60% of poly-employed workers are women, and they tend to be younger, with one in five Gen Z workers engaging in poly-employment.

Dr. Shashi Karunanethy, consulting economist for Deputy, emphasizes that the primary motivation behind workers taking on multiple jobs is to meet financial needs, particularly for younger women and those with family responsibilities. Poly-employment offers flexible, additional, and diversified income, catering to workers seeking alternatives to traditional 9-to-5 working hours.

Beyond financial considerations, having more than one job can serve as a safeguard against ongoing economic uncertainties and layoffs. The experience of financial insecurity during childhood may also drive younger workers to explore alternative work arrangements.

Silvija Martincevic, CEO of Deputy, suggests that the changing perspective on work, especially among Gen Z and millennials, stems from witnessing their parents struggle during events like the Great Recession. Job security and employer loyalty are viewed differently, with financial security taking precedence.

The diminishing stigma around working multiple jobs is another factor contributing to the rise of poly-employment. Unlike in the past, workers now feel more comfortable openly discussing side gigs or freelance work with their employers, and having a diverse portfolio is often celebrated.

Drawing parallels between polyamory and poly-employment, some experts note that both trends reflect a shift toward meeting multiple needs. However, it’s crucial to recognize that, unlike polyamorous relationships, poly-employment may not always offer mutual benefits. Employers often benefit while expecting loyalty from employees, creating an asymmetry in the relationship.

While some see the term “poly-employment” as a modernization of “freelancer” or “independent worker,” others argue it reflects the broader influence of the concept of “poly” in our culture. Despite the catchy term, the reality of juggling multiple jobs often arises from financial constraints, making it distinct from the abundance-focused nature of polyamorous relationships.

By Impact Lab