1 November 2018

Two-thirds of staff admit to working on their ‘side hustle’ on employer’s time

New research by Ciphr finds 59% of staff spending between one and two hours a day at work on their personal business, with a further third admitting to ‘pulling a sickie’ to work on their side gig


Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery is head of content and community at Ciphr. She was previously deputy editor at People Management magazine. You can find her on Twitter @c_newbery.


New research by Ciphr finds 60% of staff spending between one and two hours a day at work on their personal business, with a further third admitting to ‘pulling a sickie’ to work on their side gig

Although the term ‘side hustle’ isn’t widely used, you probably know someone who has one: that friend who has started their own podcast or is working on a book, or the colleague who sells their knitted wares on Etsy or eBay at the weekend. Reduced barriers to market entry – mainly thanks to technology – and a growing desire for work and personal life to be more in sync are prompting more and more UK workers to try their hand at a side hustle that’ll hopefully enrich their life and earn them a little pocket money on the side at the same time.

Even if you don’t know someone with a side hustle, you probably soon will: the trend is growing rapidly. One in four UK adults have a side hustle, with researchers at Henley Business School predicting that this proportion will double by 2030.

Although Henley’s study found that around a third (30%) of those with a side hustle use their annual leave to pursue their entrepreneurial interests, a new study by HR software provider Ciphr has found that workers are using company time as well to work on their sidelines. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of UK workers who also have a side hustle say they use company time to work on their personal businesses; a further 59% of these individuals admit to spending between one and two hours a day on their side hustle during regular office hours. One fifth (20%) admitted to spending more than two hours of their salaried working day on their side hustles.

Ciphr estimates that this equates to 26% of an employer’s wage bill being spent on such workers working for their own benefit, not that of the organisations which pay their wages. Assuming a 37.5-hour working week, and using average wage data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), we estimate this misconduct is costing employers just over £15 billion per year.


Henley’s July 2018 report explored employers’ attitudes towards workers’ sideline pursuits, finding that 38% of organisations are in favour of their people pursing entrepreneurial interests, with 54% indifferent to it. Just under a third (30%) of organisations said they monitor and record workers’ side hustles, and only a quarter (26%) said they required staff to notify them of any sideline jobs.

Ciphr’s research paints a slightly different story: nearly half (45%) of the 1,400 UK adult workers we surveyed said they employers knew about their side hustle gigs. Nearly half (48%) said they made no efforts to hide the fact that they work on their side hustles during employer time; a further third (35%) said they use employer-provided equipment or resources to work on their personal side projects. A third (32%) also admitted to pulling a sickie to give them more time to work on their side hustles.


The findings also revealed that a third (33%) of so-called ‘side hustlers’ are working on businesses that are similar to those of their employer – meaning they are actively creating a conflict of interest with their employer. Just 41% of workers surveyed said that they are registered with HMRC as self-employed for their side hustle, with 46% admitting that they have not declared their personal business interests to HMRC.

Our study also explored the reasons why people choose to start their own side business, with the majority (31%) saying that it was because their employer didn’t pay them enough money. However, our findings suggest that organisations wouldn’t have to increase salaries significantly to encourage side hustlers to give up their pursuits and focus on their day jobs. The majority (65%) of people surveyed said their side hustle earns them less than £500 a month, with just 2% earning more than an extra £2,000 a month. Nearly half (48%) of all respondents said they would give up their side hustle if their employer paid them more money, with an additional 15% stipulating that they’d need any extra pay to be worth more than the value of their side hustle.