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I’m currently working a 1-year contract for Company A that’s set to expire at the end of July. Since all the projects I was working on have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic (and my contract can’t be renewed) I’ve really just been making busy work for the past 6 weeks.

I’ve discussed the situation with the project manager and he’s content to keep the contract going even though I’ve expressed to him that I feel guilty for getting paid such a large sum of money for doing what amounts to very little work. Since the contract will end before the lockdown does, it begs the question of what exactly I’m doing still working for them. Although I’m grateful to have a job as millions of others have lost theirs because of this pandemic, I’d have cut me loose a month ago if I were the manager in this situation.

Additionally, I’ve been made an offer for permanent employment by Company B with a tentative start date beginning of June. Despite the lockdown, they seem eager to get me started as soon as possible even though they admit they don’t know how this is really going to work with onboarding a new hire remotely.

My new boss has given me an idea of a project that doesn’t require a lot of tribal knowledge that he’d like me to work on until they figure things out. Interestingly enough, it dovetails perfectly with something I was already working on for Company A, so I’ve already done most of the leg work for it, and all I’d need to do is adapt it to Company B’s environment once I get acquainted with it. I don’t anticipate it will take that much work.

I’m pretty sure I can do both jobs simultaneously without mentally short-changing one or the other. But I’m not sure this is ethical to get paid for two jobs concurrently. It seems like one company or the other should “own” my time for those hours.

On the other hand, freelancers do this all the time and it’s not unethical at all as long as the price is known and agreed upon by both parties beforehand.

Both managers know about the other job, so I’m not doing this covertly. But company B wants me in the door sooner rather than later, and Company A wants to hold on to me as long as possible.

I can get away with billing less time to Company A, but Company B is a full-time salaried position. I can also discuss this openly with Manager A to see how he feels about it, but I don’t know Manager B well enough to tell if I could even broach the subject with him.

So is this something I should do? Bearing in mind, it would only be for two months tops. Also bearing in mind, I would immediately resign from Company A if at any point I felt like I wasn’t being faithful to my commitments. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my new job.

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    I don’t know Manager B well enough to tell if I could even broach the subject with him. But you would, right? Because you also said you weren't going to do this covertly. It seems like one company or the other should “own” my time for those hours. Why do the hours need to overlap at all? Can you not work the 8 hours at your new job and do what little remains at your old job before/after? – BSMP May 15 at 0:57
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    This seems risky. If either firm determined that you'd breached their contract, you might find yourself in trouble. Why not just resign from the temporary role to fulfill the permanent one? – Glen Pierce May 15 at 13:50
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On the other hand, freelancers do this all the time and it’s not unethical at all as long as the price is known and agreed upon by both parties beforehand.

If you mean billing one client for time while you're actually performing work for another client, then no, this doesn't happen all the time. If I'm billing a client for my time then I'm performing work for only that client during the period of time I'm billing them for.

Do I multitask between clients? Sure. But I bill ClientA only for the time I actually perform work for ClientA. If I start performing work for ClientB then I stop billing ClientA and start billing ClientB.

If you work for and bill ClientB for 8 hours a day from 9 to 5 and then you work for and bill ClientA for 4 hours a day from 6 to 10, then there's no ethical issue.

If you work for and bill ClientB for 8 hours a day from 9 to 5 and then you work for and bill ClientA for 4 hours a day from 10 to 2, then there is an ethical issue. You can't ethically work for and bill two different clients for the same time period.

If ClientB pays you to perform work for them from 9 to 5 and you then go and perform work for ClientA during that time time period you are stealing from ClientB.

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I’m pretty sure I can do both jobs simultaneously without mentally short-changing one or the other. But I’m not sure this is ethical to get paid for two jobs concurrently. It seems like one company or the other should “own” my time for those hours.

On the other hand, freelancers do this all the time and it’s not unethical at all as long as the price is known and agreed upon by both parties beforehand.

Both managers know about the other job, so I’m not doing this covertly. But company B wants me in the door sooner rather than later, and Company A wants to hold on to me as long as possible.

I can get away with billing less time to Company A, but Company B is a full-time salaried position. I can also discuss this openly with Manager A to see how he feels about it, but I don’t know Manager B well enough to tell if I could even broach the subject with him.

So is this something I should do?

If both managers agree with you splitting your time this way, then there is nothing at all unethical about it. In that case, I would do it.

If you aren't willing to broach the subject and discuss this in the open with both of them, then to me it's less ethical, and I'm guessing that's how you feel too. In that case, I wouldn't do it.

We each get to determine our own professional ethics, how much we value our professional reputation, and to act accordingly.

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Is it morally unethical to work two jobs concurrently?

No. Probably not. As long as the two companies are not competitors of each other. However, realize that you are on the clock with Company A and they are paying you to their work... which will bring me to my next point.

Is it corporately unethical to work two jobs concurrently?

Yes. It can be seen as conflict of interest. As I mentioned before, you are on the clock with Company A doing Company B's work simultaneously. Company A is paying you to do their work alone. The same is true vice versa for Company B. It wouldn't be okay to get paid for work that you're not doing.

What can you do while your contract with Company A is concluding soon?

Frankly, I do not know.

One possible solution that I may have is to split your work hours between the two companies but I doubt you want to do that in order to preserve your full time status at both companies. I think you could sever your contract with Company A early. Know that contractors are let go and replaced almost immediately. You mentioned that both managers know about your other contracts. What do they think about you having two jobs at the same time? Specifically, I think you should talk with the manager from Company A. Either figure something out or ask to end your contract early. But before asking for a premature release from your contract, review what your contract says and then talk to your manager.

EDIT: I just reread your post and noticed that you said your job for Company B tentatively starts at the beginning of June. What's the absolute latest day you can start for Company B? That is something to discuss with Company B.

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My new boss has given me an idea of a project that doesn’t require a lot of tribal knowledge that he’d like me to work on until they figure things out. Interestingly enough, it dovetails perfectly with something I was already working on for Company A, so I’ve already done most of the leg work for it, and all I’d need to do is adapt it to Company B’s environment once I get acquainted with it. I don’t anticipate it will take that much work.

Tread very carefully here. If you plan on redoing all the "legwork" for company B - No problem. If you plan on slightly adapting the "legwork" from company A for company B you could be opening yourself up to all sorts of problems, legally and professionally.

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It depends on the contract you have with your employer.

  1. If you have an agreement that you will not work for anyone else even after your work hours then it definitely is unethical.
  2. But if you have no such agreement after work hours you are free to work for anyone else except the competitor of your primary employer.

In the 2nd case its still better to let the primary employer know that you will be doing a secondary job after work hours. I think from employer's point of view it should not be an issue if you deliver the work within time.

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