Move over quiet quitting, it's time for 'clandestine contracting'. 

Underneath the cutesy alliterative labels is a perplexing psychological dilemma facing many employees today: What does it mean to work? Why do we do it? When does work work for us? And when does it begin to ruin our lives? 

Clandestine contracting is an inevitable outcome of a long-broken system that subverted the needs of the average worker in favor of maximizing shareholder value. Capitalism at its finest.

Now, people are intentionally 'over-employing' themselves, working two full-time 40-hour jobs without bosses knowing, just to make ends meet, so they can be able to get ahead and have a sense of financial security for themselves and their families in the future.

How did we get here? The drastic change in the employee experience was a slow burn over the last 10-15 years. Millennials, like myself, entered into the workforce in the middle of a recession. We survived, just barely. And yet we still found ourselves up against a host of challenging scenarios - the rising cost of living, shut out of the housing market, and delaying starting a family. Then came Covid and the great work-from-home experiment. Most recently it's been rising inflation, interest rate hikes, and a looming recession. 

Here's what it looks like. 

First, work exclusively from home. No hybrid. No client site visits. No business travel. In the height of the pandemic, this was easy enough to pull off without raising any red flags. But more recently, as many return to the office, clandestine contractors are adamant on maintaining remote work status. They have to be. Being called into the office poses a serious risk to being found out by their bosses.

Second, these people tend to keep meetings to a minimum. They're putting in 13-16 hour days, and they know that any unnecessary meetings will eat into their precious time. They're diligent about splitting their time between job 1 and job 2. But it's never perfect. One clandestine contractor found herself juggling two training meetings at once. "Often I would just have to turn my camera and put my stuff on mute on one. There have been a couple of times where I've been called upon to answer something from both companies simultaneously," she said. "Then you really scramble ... it really hits you."

Third, they're doing the absolute bare minimum, nothing more. The opposite is what's wanted by employers. We management scientists have a name for the type of employee who voluntarily commits themselves and their time beyond his or her contractual tasks: organizational citizenship behaviors. The clandestine contractors aren't displaying these behaviors. They're not going above and beyond because they don't have the time to.

As the world rewrites the rules to work and employment, these are just some of the realities we have to face. We humans are a highly adaptive species and we'll figure it out if we have to. If there's a will, there's a way.