According to a 2017 study done by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder.com, nearly 35 percent of American women, and 28 percent of American men have side jobs.

Though this number has significantly increased over the years, the stigma remains. No one wants to seem like they're moonlighting or devoting less time and energy to their main employer. This is backed up by stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported only 4.9 percent of Americans admitted to working multiple jobs in 2017.

Employees are often afraid to admit they have a side job in order to pay their bills, pay off debt, or invest.

But the fact is that many of the best employees have side hustles--and employers should support them. Here's why.

Side jobs teach employees skills outside of work.

When an employee has a side job off the clock, they're typically gaining real-life experience. And it can help them gain new skills. A side hustle is a potential opportunity to learn project management, customer service, and other skills that can be applied at work.

What's more, the employee isn't learning on your dime. And their new skills can help you in your business.

For example, let's say that an employee works full-time at a brewery. Outside of that work, that employee has a side job at a social-media agency.

They can then use their social-media savvy to help the brewery expand their social outreach and market their products.

The employee learned these skills on their own time but then applied them to their full-time position, without the company investing in extra training.

People with side jobs are self-starters.

If an employee has the drive to work a side job, they're more likely to be innovative, proactive, and organized.

If they weren't, they wouldn't be able to balance a 40-hour workweek at one workplace and another 10-20 hours at a side job.

Having employees with second jobs means that your company may be less likely to run out of new ideas. Employees with side hustles may have greater insight about ways to make your business run more smoothly.

On top of this, employees with side jobs may be more confident in their negotiating and marketing skills. Think about it: They probably have to do these tasks for their side hustle. In turn, they can bring these valuable abilities to your team.

Most employees want to stay full-time.

Some companies assume that employees with side jobs have their eye on the exit door. 

This isn't necessarily true. Employees often don't want their side jobs to become full-time gigs.

A 2016 survey by CareerBuilder revealed 71 percent of employees with side jobs didn't plan on turning their side hustle into their career. And 76 percent of them didn't plan on keeping their side business long-term.

Side hustles don't mean that an employee is unsatisfied with their job or that they plan on quitting any time soon. Many employees stay at their full-time position for the income, benefits, and flexibility.

Employees with side hustles may be more content with current pay.

Because side hustlers do it at least partly to make more money, they may be less likely to ask their full-time employer for a raise.

Side jobs are often a way to be creative or try a new adventure. Many don't think to ask for a raise from their full-time employer.

This isn't to say that a company shouldn't offer raises to employees who deserve it. But for startups with lean budgets, having a self-starting, hardworking employee can be a major asset whom you can reward in the future.

Don't assume the worst of employees with side jobs.

Most full-time employees with second jobs don't want to escape their careers.

So, to keep morale and loyalty high, make them comfortable in the workplace. Tell them it's OK for them to have a side job. Be transparent with them, and they'll do the same with you.

But also let them know that there are rules to be followed when they're on company time. This could include not working on side-job tasks when they have other work to do.

Worried about your employee's side job? Do this.

Scared your employees may steal away clients or customers due to their side hustle? Add a non-compete clause in your contracts. That way, they can side hustle as long as it doesn't interfere with their work or your business.

Remember, like any relationship, communication is key. If they're not distracted by the side job, the least you can do is show them it's OK to have one.

Check in with your employees to make sure you're both satisfied with their work. Show them appreciation and ask them how you can help.

Employees want to work for companies that care. If you serve them well, they'll return the favor, whether they have a side job or not. 

Published on: Apr 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.