Like Murphy, many overemployed individuals are achieving financial milestones that once seemed out of reach—from buying a home to building up sizable savings. In one Discord conversation, a member relishes the feeling of getting two paychecks on the same day while others react with emojis in delighted unison. In another channel, called “2x-success-stories,” members discuss wins ranging from paying off the credit card debt of loved ones to giving themselves raises of 130 percent or 200 percent by acquiring a second job.
But many of the wins aren’t material. Counterintuitively, proponents say the idea of working more—and the obligation to, in theory, work 80 or more hours per week—is not just financially freeing, but emotionally and professionally liberating as well. Discussions on Discord warn members of “red flag” behavior from companies—from startups with heavy meeting expectations to cultures of needless urgency. These conversations point to growing disenchantment with the idea that the workplace bears any resemblance to a family, with members often citing their real families—spouses, toddlers, parents—as the people they’re opting to prioritize above corporate loyalty. There’s a pervasive belief that many jobs are nothing more than an exchange of services for pay, until it’s no longer advantageous.
The overemployed are rarely seeking self-actualization and meaning-making at work. Many eschew career ambitions, adding additional jobs that are relatively junior and allow them to complete their work without the obligations that come with more senior roles. Those seeking fulfillment from their 9 to 5 are dissuaded across threads in Discord and Reddit, told to look elsewhere and resist the encroachment of businesses on their lives, and encouraged to find meaning outside the constraints of employment.
While stories about people with half a dozen jobs exist, most in the community simply work two, avoiding lifestyle inflation and expense creep and saving for their individual or family goals. Many are satisfied to coast at work, not necessarily because they’re eager to take advantage of corporations, but because they’ve already experienced the burnout that arose from overworking at a single job—receiving little in return for their efforts. In one thread, where someone considers resigning from one of their three roles, another poster responds matter-of-factly: “Don’t resign, just resign your mind.”
With multiple jobs, the posters say they never quite get attached to any. It’s a rejection of work as identity and an embrace of jobs as a means to an end. And most have an exit strategy, the financial goal or number that will see them pack it all in. Overemployment provides a sense of newfound confidence and positivity amid uncertain times, a feeling of taking back power.
Murphy has no moral qualms about overemployment, suggesting it’s both ethical and common. “My mom worked two jobs all the time growing up, but we don’t really think of that as weird because it’s a working-class situation,” she says. “But if you’re a knowledge worker and you’re working multiple jobs, there’s a sentiment that it’s unethical. It’s not, if you’re getting your work done.”
Still, Murphy was afraid of being found out and potentially losing both roles in the midst of the pandemic. Her anxieties reached a head when a meeting from human resources at her first job materialized on her work calendar. She was terrified her secret had been exposed. She imagined the HR coordinators at both companies somehow communicating and blowing up her life, with only herself to blame for trying to get ahead and save faster. In reality, the call was quite different: The company was in the midst of layoffs and she was being let go after several years. “I had saved up plenty of cash,” said Murphy. “I ended up being incredibly grateful that I had the secret second job.”