Enter the side hustle

Why encouraging employee side hustles should be the new norm

Photo by Anthony Young on Unsplash

The nature of work has changed, perhaps forever. The very foundations of what used to make work purposeful, and the makeup of a productive and happy day at work has shifted. This is true everywhere, for almost every type and size of business, in whatever stage. The loss of the physical environment as a key ingredient in how work gets done is not something which is being talked about enough. As a leader or manager, the ability to gaze across a team of people dutifully working at their desks is no longer.

Working in marketing and advertising, this change is particularly stark. When your currency is ideas, and your production facility was centered around a diverse group of people being able to hash out paths of creativity together, the move to remote work requires fundamental rethinking of almost everything. Creativity is a muscle. When you stop exercising it, it gets weaker and weaker. And like any muscle building, although other people push you, and make you better, at its core, tapping into one’s creative side is an individual pursuit. Building a culture of creativity within teams in a post-pandemic world is a topic for another day which needs far more attention, but there is one organic thing that has happened in the marketing team that I lead which has proven to be vital — the emergence of the side hustle.

Driven by either passion, or necessity, side hustles appear to have exploded since the start of the pandemic. Google Trends shows an almost vertical increase in search volume as retrenchments and salary cuts took their toll, or people were merely driven to find something which could fuel their passion in a time where social calendars were suddenly empty:

Google Trends — “Side hustle” search interest over time

Has there been a subsequent sea change in the attitude of organisations in their view of employee side hustles? Evidence is weak. It appears the predominant belief remains entrenched that anything that distracts an employee from their work is a bad thing. That the 9–5pm working day remains, and that managing by walking around has been replaced by managing by Zooming around. I don’t see many examples of an evolutionary view of how work gets done, and how not just tolerating, but actively encouraging side hustles can have massive benefits.

More than 50% of my marketing team now has an active side hustle. This has partly been driven by necessity, but as inherently creative individuals, has also been a required outlet for creative energy. Their side hustles include everything from art, to music, to podcasting, and have all grown in an environment at Yoco where the pursuit of entrepreneurial activities is actively encouraged.

So, watching this grow within my team over the last year, here are the five benefits I have witnessed of actively encouraging the side hustle:

  1. It fuels creativity and innovation — perhaps this one is obvious, but its importance cannot be understated. When collective creativity remains hard to nurture, ensuring creative muscles remain well exercised has taken on increasing importance. Side hustles are a lubricant for creativity.
  2. It encourages experimentation — a culture of experimentation and learning is perhaps the single biggest driver of evolutionary organisations. Side hustles force this daily. If you want to see experimentation in action, encourage people to try to make their first R100 on the internet.
  3. It builds entrepreneurial spirit while developing business savviness — being able to empathise with entrepreneurs is something we value highly at Yoco, but more than that, the grit, resilience and tenacity required to be a successful entrepreneur is only something you can truly learn by doing. Side hustles can be the first chapter in this journey.
  4. It forces mastery of new platforms, tools and audiences — it’s amazing how many people within the marketing world don’t actually know how certain platforms work, how to build a community, or how to advertise to online (or offline) audiences. There is nothing like a side hustle to drink from the fire hydrant of knowledge in this area.
  5. It gives energy — rather than sapping energy, and resulting in employees who don’t show up at work, having an active side hustle can be massively energy injecting. Putting energy into your passion reflects energy back into your work in abundance.

These benefits aside, in the end, the most productive employees are the happiest employees, and for that reason alone, I believe actively encouraging side hustles is something which every leader should start doing.

And to finish things off, here is a shameless plug of the side hustles within my awesome team, go and support them:

Yanick — is part of Grassy Spark, a kick ass band. You can download their music here

Kelsy — sells illustrated prints and does art commissions. All available here

Sibahle — has launched a range of detox juices and products. Grab them here

Mashudu — an entrepreneurship ecosystem specialist whose work predates his current role. Drop everything and listen to his podcast here

Elton — has combined his love for design and fashion to launch a range of premium box fit T-shirts. Mostly sold out, but follow him here

Marketing. Challenger Brands. Fintech. Head of Brand at Yoco.