Should a civil servant be allowed to have a “side hustle”?

Why not? So long as there aren’t any conflicts of interest and the civil servant can still deliver his work outcomes reasonably well, why should the Government stop civil servants from having their own side hustles? And even if that means that the civil servant sets up his own company while still keeping his “day job” as a civil servant.

Desmond Choo, MP and NTUC’s Director of Youth Development Unit, said this: “If you’re an outcome based company, do you really care how an employee spends his time? Whatever you do in between, I say go ahead. There is also value in you cross-feeding ideas. One learns from his own ventures, and one can apply some of these during work. Why am I worried that an employee would do better in his own ventures than for my own companies? I think people should evolve from no-moonlighting clauses in employment contracts”.

There are those in the private sector who would agree with Desmond Choo that it’s useful for employees to have a “side hustle”. Here are five reasons how an employee becomes better at his job with a side hustle: He learns new skills. He expands his network. He strengthens his personal brand. He becomes more confident. He is happier. All these can help him perform better at his work.

The government does look kindly to its civil servants who are actively involved in non-profit work. Many civil servants spend much time volunteering. At least one very high-flying civil servant I know started a very interesting website to promote better debates for a better Singapore. I’m sure his bosses know, and probably gave their blessings for him to work on that side project.

I would think that some of the non-profit work that some civil servants are involved in take up as much time as starting and running a business would. So why are they allowed to do those but other civil servants can’t be allowed to start and run their own businesses? Oh… because there’s profit involved. So? What if that business is a social enterprise? Can?

The civil service is the single largest employer in Singapore. If its practices remain archaic, rigid, and needlessly bureaucratic, how can the government claim any moral authority to get other employers to change? If the government wants other employers to adopt human resource practices that encourage greater innovation, creativity, productivity, work engagement, then it needs to lead the change. Not just talk and talk only. But… would that happen? Would the HR departments of our civil service practise what the politicians are preaching to the private sector?

I hope so.



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