‘Overemployed’ Workers Secretly Juggle Several Jobs for Big Salaries


Early in the pandemic, Bryan Roque lost his job as a software engineer at Amazon. Part of him was relieved. He’d been working himself to the bone for months on end, and he felt completely burned out. But the timing was tough: The company was dumping him into the worst job market since the Great Depression.

Roque called his parents to give them the bad news, then packed up his apartment and moved back in with them. He eventually found a new job, a position at IBM that was fully remote, but an underlying anxiety stayed with him. “It just felt like I had no control,” he told me. “I didn’t like that I was under the whims of a company that gets to decide whether I’m employed or not.”

So less than a year into the job at IBM, when a recruiter from Meta came calling, Roque had a thought. The normal thing would be to quit his old job and accept the new position, which was also fully remote. But what if he kept his old job, and secretly took on the new one, too? All he had to do was two-time IBM, and he could double his income as well as his job security.

As he mulled the idea, he discovered that he wasn’t alone. There’s a whole community of professionals online who trade tips about juggling jobs on the sly. They describe themselves as “overemployed” — and remarkably, they seem to be getting away with it. Helping them evade detection is a guy who goes by the pseudonym Isaac, who started the blog Overemployed in 2021 to share his secrets as the OG overemployed worker. Today there are some 300,000 members of the community on Discord and Reddit who celebrate one another’s successes, commiserate on their failures, and swap secrets for fooling their bosses.

So Roque set out to join them. He clinched an offer from Meta, landed another from Tinder, and after negotiating the two against each other for more pay, he accepted both jobs — in addition to keeping his gig at IBM. Fifteen months earlier, he’d been unemployed. Now he was suddenly employed three times over — and on track to earn a combined salary of more than $820,000 a year.

Holding down multiple jobs has long been a backbreaking way for low-wage workers to get by. But since the pandemic, the phenomenon has been on the rise among professionals like Roque, who have seized on the privacy provided by remote work to secretly take on two or more jobs — multiplying their paychecks without working much more than a standard 40-hour workweek. The move is not only culturally taboo, but it’s also a fireable offense — one that could expose the cheaters to a lawsuit if they’re caught. To learn their methods and motivations, I spent several weeks hanging out among the overemployed online. What, I wondered, does this group of W-2 renegades have to tell us about the nature of work — and of loyalty — in the age of remote employment?


Before immersing yourself in the overemployed forums, it helps to know some of the lingo. Those who consider themselves OE rank each of their jobs by the priority they place on it. J1 is the favorite, the one they’ll tend to before the others. J2 is the backup, J3 is the backup of the backup, and so on. The trick is to maximize your TC (total compensation) while minimizing your HPW (hours worked per week on each job). If you see inexplicable references to gaming (e.g., “Should I take on a 3rd Minecraft server?”) that’s just code for an OE job. They know that outsiders — maybe even their bosses — are lurking on the forums, so they try to create the impression they’re talking about something innocent, the way a mobster might talk about accepting a “contract” to “do a piece of work.”

This commitment to secrecy is the first pillar of the OE ethos. They freeze their employment histories with Equifax and hibernate their LinkedIn profiles, so employers can’t see they’re holding multiple jobs. They tell no one what they’re up to, barring their spouse and maybe their accountant — hence their many references to “Fight Club.” When a coworker sends them some article about OE, they feign surprise. There’s no way I could handle two jobs when I’m so busy with just one! The first rule of OE is you do not talk about OE.

Remote worker with a shadow representing secrecy

The first rule of OE is you do not talk about OE.

Tyler Le/Insider



The OE hustlers have some tried-and-true hacks. Taking on a second or third full-time job? Given how time-consuming the onboarding process can be, you should take a week or two of vacation from your other jobs. It helps if you can stagger your jobs by time zone — perhaps one that operates during New York hours, say, and another on California time. Keep separate work calendars for each job — but to avoid double-bookings, be sure to block off all your calendars as soon as a new meeting gets scheduled. And don’t skimp on the tech that will make your life a bit easier. Mouse jigglers create the appearance that you’re online when you’re busy tending to your other jobs. A KVM switch helps you control multiple laptops from the same keyboard.

Some OE hustlers brag about shirking their responsibilities. For them, being overemployed is all about putting one over on their employers. But most in the community take pride in doing their jobs, and doing them well. That, after all, is the single best way to avoid detection: Don’t give your bosses — any of them — a reason to become suspicious.

“The main reason people get caught is because they’re slacking,” says George, a software engineer who’s held as many as four jobs at a time. “I’ve never been caught. I actually do the work.” (All the OEers I interviewed, with the exception of Bryan Roque, agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity.) Does working multiple full-time jobs require burning the midnight oil? Sure, once in a while, when the shit hits the fan at all your companies at the same time. But for the most part, people average no more than 50 hours of work a week, and usually closer to 40. So what’s their secret to condensing their workloads to what should be an 80-, or 120-, or 160-hour workweek?

Mostly, they’re just really, really good at their jobs, which enables them to work fast. “I’m at the top of my game now,” says Allison, a woman with 16 years of experience in her field who took on two full-time roles. “And when I was applying for the second job, I made sure it was well within what I know to be my skillset.” One OE strategy, in fact, is to intentionally seek out roles that are too junior for you. That ensures the assignments you get will be pretty easy.

Those with multiple jobs also seek out positions they hope will be OE-friendly — light on meetings, as well as on the workload. The process requires a lot of trial and error, like trading cards until you get the perfect hand. Cole, a software engineer, started looking for a J2 because his J1 required so little work — often as little as two or three hours a week. “I just felt like I had a lot of extra time on my hands,” he says, “and I figured I could use that time more productively than just watching videos on YouTube.” But he’s been forced to cycle through several J2s, looking for a role that matches his J1. “I haven’t found the same work-life balance and compensation at another job,” he says.

The consequences for getting caught actually appear to be fairly low. Matthew Berman, an employment attorney who has emerged as the unofficial go-to lawyer in the OE community, hasn’t encountered anyone who has been hit with a lawsuit for holding a second job. “Most of the time, it’s not going to be worth suing an employee,” he says. But many say the stress of the OE life can get to you. George, the software engineer, has trouble sleeping at night because of his fear of getting caught. Others acknowledge that the rigors of juggling multiple jobs have hurt their marriages. One channel on the OE Discord is dedicated to discussions of family life, mostly among dads with young kids. People in the channel sometimes ask for relationship advice, and the responses they get from the other dads are sweet. “Your regard for your partner,” one person advised of marriage, “should outweigh your desire for validation.”

One concern that’s dominating the OE forums these days is the return-to-office push underway at many companies. What do you do if one of your employers requires you to start showing up in person? That’s what happened to Roque, the IBM-Meta-Tinder engineer, when Meta asked him to come into the office a couple of days a week. Sometimes he wasn’t able to book a conference room to take his Tinder and IBM calls in privacy, leading to some nerve-racking conversations out in Meta’s open-plan office, where anyone might overhear him. One time he accidentally connected his Tinder laptop to Meta’s WiFi network, rather than using his phone’s hot spot, and Tinder immediately noticed. It was a close call: When Tinder asked why he was remoting in from Meta, he quickly improvised a story about how he was working at a friend’s office. “They basically told me, ‘Oh, just so you know, we recommend you don’t do that,'” he said. “I was like, ‘Makes sense.'”


Job jugglers in the OE forums often post about how much money they’re making. One person claimed to be earning $2 million from nine jobs; a few others posted about making $1 million. But those whose earnings I was able to verify are earning less than that. Isaac, the founder of the Overemployed blog, makes about $600,000 from his two tech jobs. Cole, a software engineer, makes about $500,000. At her peak, Allison was making $260,000 from her jobs as a business analyst and a product manager.

Remote worker putting coin in piggy bank

If the first pillar of OE is secrecy, the second is frugality.

Tyler Le/Insider



What job jugglers don’t brag about, oddly, is how they spend their money. I kept looking for flashy anecdotes about fast cars and luxury vacations, but all anyone seemed to talk about was saving — and then saving some more. If the first pillar of OE is secrecy, the second is frugality. Many in the community turn out to be adherents of the movement known as FIRE, short for Financial Independence, Retire Early. George, who is in his 20s, told me he’s on track to retire by the time he’s 35. The overemployed prioritize paying down their credit-card debt, student loans, and mortgages. The one splurge I saw someone proudly volunteer was tickets to a Taylor Swift concert for their daughter. When newbies post their success stories, veterans chime in with sober warnings about what they call lifestyle creep. “OE is about financial security,” one recently advised. “If you inflate your lifestyle, you lose that.”

There’s another incentive: Unlike most Americans, those who work multiple jobs don’t have to worry about layoffs. For Roque, that relief outweighed the stress of his added workload and the vigilance required to keep his three jobs a secret. “I didn’t have to worry about being super-dependent on one company,” he told me. “I had control over whether I had an income or not.” Still, he ultimately wound up replacing his jobs at IBM and Meta and Tinder with a single new one, to give himself time to enjoy other pursuits.

But what I really wanted to know — what interested me the most — is whether those who are overemployed feel guilty about what they’re doing. There’s no way around the fact that they’re breaking the rules: In exchange for a salary, they promised not to work for anyone else. Did they feel bad about breaking that promise?

The forums include quite a few posts in the screw-the-man tenor you see all over Reddit — one person boasted about being a “monetary mercenary.” But the overemployed I spoke with came across like decent people. They genuinely seem to care about fulfilling their obligations to the people around them.

“There is a certain moral ick to taking two jobs,” George says. “I have some really nice bosses, so the way I compensate is by going the extra mile.”

Allison says she worried, at first, that she was taking a job that could have gone to someone who didn’t have one. With unemployment at 3.9%, there are plenty of jobs to go around right now — but it’s a legitimate concern, especially given all the recent layoffs in the tech industry. Allison ultimately justified taking a second job because her husband wasn’t working so he could care for older family members. As a couple, she reasons, they still have the same number of jobs as a normal dual-income household.

Others say they don’t feel bad for a simpler reason: because they do the work that’s required of them. “They’re happy with what I’m producing,” says Cole, who’s been promoted twice at his J1 since he started taking on second jobs. “I don’t feel bad about what I’m doing with the rest of my time.”


Many bosses, of course, would argue that they’re paying these employees to work full-time. If you get your work done quickly, the traditional expectation is you should let your supervisor know you’re available to take on more tasks. You owe it to your company to put in the hours you’re being paid for — all of them.

But that’s precisely what many of the overemployed say they used to do, back in their days as career monogamists. And what did that get them? A lousy raise that got wiped out by inflation. Unmet promises of a promotion. Layoffs at the first sign of turmoil, delivered by a single email that shuts you out of the company’s system with no warning. Loyalty, they decided, doesn’t pay. If you can’t trust one employer to do right by you, better to have two or three of them as backups.

At its core, overemployment represents a new social contract being forged in an era that has left the old, unspoken agreement in tatters.

At its core, overemployment represents a new social contract being forged in an era that has left the old, unspoken agreement around work — “stick with us for life and we’ll treat you like family” — in tatters. Professionals in the OE forums are looking for a way that will more reliably reward them for their talents — even if it requires an ungodly degree of risk tolerance and a champion-level poker face. “My parents told me, ‘Don’t switch companies, grow in one company, be loyal to one company, and they’ll be loyal to you,'” George says. “That may have been true in their days, but it definitely isn’t today anymore.”

The thing is, employers themselves have started moving in the direction of hiring people who have multiple jobs. Since the pandemic, many companies have been bringing on more independent contractors, who are often paid by the project, not by the hour. Critically, these gigs come with no expectation of loyalty. As I reported earlier this year, that’s terrifying for us normies, who depend on our employer to provide us with health insurance and other benefits. But it’s a good thing for the overemployed. Many in the OE community, in fact, have taken advantage of the trend by getting a full-time J1 that provides them with health insurance and then taking J2s and J3s that are contractor positions, which often come with higher pay to compensate for the lack of benefits.

The pandemic-era rise of remote and hybrid work has also introduced employers to a new way of measuring productivity. Instead of tracking the number of hours that employees log at their desks, many supervisors are now evaluating employees based on the actual work they produce. Given this more flexible, results-oriented approach to management, some bosses may get to the point where they don’t care about an employee’s second job, as long as the work they’re getting from the employee is first-rate. “I got ‘exceeds’ on my reviews for both jobs last year,” Allison says. “It’s hard to feel guilty when you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

But there’s a strong argument to be made that the overemployed could actually wind up fueling a backlash from bosses. Many CEOs have already grown suspicious of remote work, convinced that work-from-home employees are taking advantage of them, and reports of two-timing scofflaws only serve to confirm those fears. From a traditional management perspective, the idea that experienced employees can finish their job in far less than 40 hours a week argues for either (1) giving full-time staffers more work or (2) replacing them with independent contractors. “I think people who do this stuff really just make it worse for everyone else in the long run,” one Redditor wrote in a much-villified post on the subreddit r/overemployed. “Not here to hate. Just want you guys to rethink what you’re doing.”

A desktop computer showing three trophies

“I got ‘exceeds’ on my reviews for both jobs last year,” says one OEer. “It’s hard to feel guilty when you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Tyler Le/Insider




There’s no way to know exactly how many job jugglers there are. In September, McKinsey & Company estimated that those it calls “double-dippers” constitute 5% of a typical organization’s staff. That strikes me as way too high. Last quarter, the government estimated that 412,000 Americans are working two full-time jobs at the same time, up by 105,000 since 2019. Since most of those are almost certainly blue-collar workers struggling to get by, OE professionals likely comprise far less than 1% of the white-collar workforce. It’s still a niche phenomenon.

But I think the bosses of the world are threatened by OE for a deeper reason — one that goes beyond the numbers. There’s something radical that happens to a worker’s psychology when they have multiple jobs. If your company is putting a roof over your head, it’s hard not to fall into a hustle-culture mentality at work, doing whatever it takes to satisfy your boss. That dependence is “a big mental weight that I think a lot of people carry with them,” Isaac, the OE blogger, told me. “They go a little harder because they have to.” But because the overemployed are no longer wholly dependent on any one employer, each job starts to look a little more disposable — which, if we’re being honest, is precisely how many CEOs view their employees. On the forums, when someone complains about being unhappy at their J2 or their J3, the responses pour in. Time to drop that shitty job, they say. This is why we OE.

Allison recently faced such a dilemma. Her new boss at her J1 kept dumping more and more work on her, until she eventually found herself running a whole team of employees. All she wanted was a promotion, and maybe a $10,000 raise, to compensate her for the additional responsibilities she was forced to take on. But her employer refused. Before, she would have stuck it out, dependent on her job to support her and her family. But this time she had the backup of a great J2, which gave her the freedom to walk away. When she quit, the company posted her opening as a manager role — and asked her whether she’d come back for the better job title and higher pay she had wanted all along. She declined.

“This is a pervasive thing in my career,” she says. “I’ll be told, ‘Hey, we’re going to groom you to promote you,’ and then something will happen and that promotion just won’t come through. I realized that if I wanted to improve my family’s financial health, I was going to have to take a different tactic, and this is what I chose.” She promised her husband that she’ll take it easy for a few months in her J2, which is now her J1. But the truth is, she’s already started scrolling through job postings on LinkedIn and Indeed. She’ll start applying in earnest in the new year. The winner will be her new J2.


Aki Ito is a senior correspondent at Insider.



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