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Employers should support side hustlers

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A panel at a Henley Business School event shared the benefits of encouraging staff to pursue other work alongside their day jobs

Employers should do more to support the growing number of employees who are side hustlers, agreed a panel at a Henley Business School event.

Speaking on 'The Side Hustle Economy' panel, Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “Since writing the book Working 5 to 9 back in 2010 the number of people starting a business alongside a day job, studies or caring has continued to rocket. I maintain that it's a great way to start as you give yourself time to build confidence and cash flow in the business.

"What must develop alongside this movement is the infrastructure to deliver business support to this group of fledgling entrepreneurs; such as access to 24/7 trusted advice and multiple evening and weekend events, so that part-time business owners can access the skills and support they need to go full time, if that's the aim. The economy will benefit as a result.”

Also speaking on the panel, Danny Harmer, chief people officer at Metro Bank, said she welcomes those with side hustles to her organisation.

"I think businesses need to be a lot more appreciative of people's transferrable skills. I see no conflict. If someone has interests and things that fulfil them they'll be happy. As long as someone comes to work for us and they love their job, they fit with the culture and they’re aligned to our business, it's fine," she said.

When asked if there is a risk employees might leave the organisation to pursue a side hustle full time she added: "People need to make their own way, and as long as while they’re with us they’re happy and engaged there's no problem. If they’re treated as an individual and a whole human being they’ll do a better job."

Henley Business School's research revealed that one in four people currently have a side business alongside their main job, contributing an estimated £72 billion to the UK economy. This figure is expected to grow significantly by 2050.

Despite many working a 50-hour week employees reported feeling happier and more content in their main role if they had a side hustle, with 69% stating side hustles make life feel more interesting.

The research also found that business leaders who are supportive of side hustlers reap the benefits. Almost half (49%) said that allowing the practice lets them retain their best people, while 50% said it had helped them attract top talent. However, as many as 54% of business leaders remain ambivalent about the benefits to the business and 55% have no formal policy in place.

Harmer encouraged employers to have conversations with employees about their lives outside of work to avoid them becoming disengaged or stressed.

"There is a risk of burnout if you're not having sensible conversations with people. I think the relationship [between employers and employees] has to evolve,” she said.

"It’s a shared responsibility. Someone is just as likely to be distracted if they have an elderly parent they need to care for. You just need to have a conversation: 'Are you ok to be here today? Do you need to plan your time better?' Treating people like adults is the most important thing here. If someone is struggling, help them with it, work it out together."

Musician and documentary-maker Stephen Manderson – commonly known as Professor Green – shared his own experiences of juggling projects on the panel.

"There are new career paths being forged all the time, particularly with the internet. Music has always been my catalyst, and although I've done a lot of other things I've found if I take my eye off the ball with music everything else falls apart,” he said.

“If employers don't have policy in place [for side hustlers] they don't just risk losing employees, they could make them very unhappy."