Harnessing the Hustle

When I moved to Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, I quickly became involved with a website that caters to the neighborhood. Through my interviews, events and staff meetings, I’ve been able to connect with community members and make new friends. When I was new to the city, this group helped me feel as though I belong to a community, all while practicing my journalism craft.

Although it’s a volunteer position, it’s my “side hustle.”

And no, “side hustle” isn’t a euphemism for cheating on a significant other. A side hustle, in the business world, is an extra job or business venture that an employee works on outside of their regular job.

Fast Company seems to love the idea of a side hustle, devoting numerous posts to discussion of the concept.

A recent post included a list of “5 Ways a Side Hustle Can Advance Your Career”:

  1. You learn new skills.
  2. You expand your network.
  3. You strengthen your personal brand.
  4. You become more confident.
  5. You become happier.

That last point should hit home for many of you HR executives out there. A happier workforce means a more engaged workforce, which can hopefully translate into a more successful business.

But how do you encourage employees to have a side hustle without it encroaching on their day-to-day workload?

Some companies, such as Apple, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn have implemented “20 percent time,” which means employees can experiment with their own ideas for 20 percent of their normal workday. Although some companies have ended the policy, it’s still a nice idea to allow employees to experiment. It could even turn into a new product.

It’s old news, but 3M also lets its employees experiment, having 15 percent of their time devoted to individual projects. In a Wired article from 1998, the writer said that, “3M bets heavily that informal, bottom-up scientific percolation will lead to profitable products, a wager reflected in its demands that 30 percent of each division's sales come from products less than four years old.”

Take note from these tech companies, and let employees have some time each day for their side hustle, or to think of other solutions.

Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Hold an office competition where employees vote for their peers’ coolest side hustle. Award the winner with a cash prize or gift card.
  • Get management involved in the employees’ side projects. Offer advice on how to expand their new business venture.
  • Bring in a time management or organization expert to speak with interested parties on how to get a side hustle in motion.
  • Offer employees one day off per month to work on their own projects.
  • Let employees work from home intermittently (but only during lulls in their workload.)

 Do you have more ideas for encouraging side hustles? Tell me in the comments!