Does Polywork Lead to Burnout?

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Getting ahead in life can be very hard, especially with how extreme inflation has been since the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to make extra money, some people have begun to engage in polywork, or working more than one full-time job at the same time.

The rise in remote work made this more possible, and some people think it's a great way to move up in economic class. But is it sustainable? Ahead, we'll examine whether polyworking leads to burnout. First, though, let's make sure we're clear about what both polyworking and burnout are.

What Is Polywork?

Polyworking is the act of holding more than one job at a time. Though it is a common and normal occurrence for people to have two part-time jobs, the term polywork usually implies that someone is holding more than one full time position at once. In most cases, they are performing their roles from home, or are working at one office while doing the work for another job (or more) remotely, from that office or from home outside of those office hours.

Polyworkers may have two, three, or even four full time jobs that they hold down simultaneously. In order to keep each job safe, they don't tend to tell any of their employers about their other jobs. Each employer is typically under the assumption that their full time employee is working only that job. However, the poly-worker will do the work of that job alongside the work for their other job(s), unbeknownst to their employer.

It might seem impossible to work more than one full time job, but many people aren't busy from 9-5 nonstop at work. For office workers who have a lot of experience in their field, the act of fitting two days worth of work into one might not be a big deal.

Alternately, a polyworker might work additional hours, such as keeping East Coast hours for one job and West Coast hours for another, with only part of the day overlapping.

Defining Burnout

Burnout is an expression how how you feel when you've been in a stressful situation for awhile and you've grown tired of it. Your performance may begin to dip, you might feel less creative, and you might stop enjoying your job.

When it comes to polyworking, the idea of burnout can simply mean that you hit a point where you feel you can no longer keep up with your multiple jobs. You might feel stressed nonstop, your performance at one or more of your jobs could suffer, and you may begin experiencing the physical symptoms of stress, from stomach upset to trouble sleeping at night.

The Benefits of Polywork

Because some people are spending their time at more than one job, surely there are some benefits to it. Let's examine what they are.

The biggest benefit of polyworking is the fact that you can double, triple, or even quadruple your income. This can lead to making fast financial progress on important life changes such as paying off student loan debt or saving for a house down payment.

Another benefit is that, if you are someone who works quickly and often find yourself bored at work, holding two or more jobs simultaneously is more likely to keep your mind stimulated. The tasks of switching back and forth between jobs would be particularly challenging, and some people could find it stimulating.

A third benefit of polyworking is that, by not having all your eggs in one basket, if something happens at one job and you get laid off, you won't find yourself unemployed. You'll still have the security of your other job, or jobs, to keep you in a solid place financially—provided you haven't altered your quality of life to needing multiple jobs at once to sustain it.

Lastly, working multiple jobs at once could help your career trajectory. You'll be accumulating two or more years of experience for every year you put in, you'll learn the ins and outs of more than one business at a time, and you'll show future employers that you can handle complicated work situations.

The Drawbacks of PolyWorking

In as much as there are benefits of polywork, it has some negative aspects too. Here are some.

The biggest drawback of polyworking is that it may be too tiresome for you. You could quickly become exhausted at having the workload of two or more jobs instead of one. This could affect your ability to focus and how you perform.

Another drawback is the stress of having to hide your jobs from one another. Just like it would be stressful to have two families that don't know about each other, being sure to never slip and say or do the wrong thing at both jobs might be an extremely stressful burden.

A third drawback is that even if your jobs occur with simultaneous hours, you might not be able to complete all your work tasks in that time. This will lead to working longer hours, and can impact your free time. Without proper time for rest and recharging, your mental and emotional wellness can quickly suffer.

Will It Lead to Burnout?

Whether or not polyworking will lead to burnout is for an individual to decide for themself. That said, there is plenty of reason to believe that polywork can and will lead to burnout. We don't think it's a great idea for most people.

Many people find our society in which we work five days on and two days off to be bad for our emotional wellness, and studies have shown that when employees are able to work fewer days, they are just as productive.

So it makes sense to think that working more won't lead to performing better, and you'll risk your work at all your jobs suffering because your workload is double the average. Risking burnout may not be worth the extra money.

Should Anyone Polywork?

Polyworking can definitely lead to burnout, but there are some people for whom that is less likely to occur. Someone who spends the bulk of their workday not working, and with higher ups who are happy with that performance, is the ideal candidate for adding another job into the mix. They're the least likely to experience burnout, especially if their second job is equal in busyness, because they won't actually be taking on multiple jobs worth of work.

A person looking to save money quickly also may benefit from poly-working. Not taking the act of multiple jobs on long term, but rather just doing so for a month or two, could be perfectly fine for someone's mental health.

If you're experiencing burnout from your job, it's important to take action. You can take steps to prioritize your mental health. Here are some actions that might help you feel better.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.