Consulting is a demanding job, and it's no surprise that consultants often work long hours. Research by Consultancy, United Kingdom, shows that consultants usually work between 50 and 80 hours a week to meet the demands of their role. This can be a challenge for many professionals, especially those who are early in their careers and don't have the triggers for conflicts between work and personal life (partner, children, etc.).In general, most junior consultants work full time: 87% of men and 73% of women have a 40-hour contract a week. However, in strategy consultancies, 100% of consultants report working overtime, with an average of 20 overtime hours per week.
Clients often expect consultants to adapt to their own work culture (for example, 80 hours a week in banking or working on weekends), to be always available, and to travel abroad for meetings. The type of industry also affects the number of hours worked. For example, banking activity tends to be at the most intense extreme, while mining, where working hours are regulated for safety reasons, tends to be at the opposite extreme. Academics found that when consultants are provided with domestic help to clean and wash clothes, for example, to improve the quality of time spent at home, it actually makes it easier to work longer hours. In intensive strategic consulting firms, the health and well-being of employees is usually monitored weekly, while this is less common in other consulting firms. Plus, there's almost no downtime in consulting, which means you'll rarely be able to take a 30-minute break to drink coffee, make important phone calls, or go to the pharmacy to buy the deodorant you need. Many companies have invested heavily in policies to mitigate the detrimental effects of long consulting hours and the lack of work-life balance.
The belief that greater job satisfaction and a satisfying life outside the office lead to greater productivity seems to have been adopted by a large number of human resources departments and partners in the consulting sector. However, given the recognized negative impact of burnout on consulting firms and their employees, there is an ethical and business incentive to keep trying. Given the complex matrix of factors that contribute to the conflict between work and personal life in consulting firms, it seems that employees will still be unable to reconcile work and personal life in all but the most demanding companies. Consultants at boutique firms do slightly better, with only 67% working beyond their contractual consulting hours. The key for consultants is finding ways to balance their professional obligations with their personal lives. This can include setting boundaries with clients about availability outside of normal working hours or taking advantage of flexible working arrangements.
It's also important for consultants to prioritize self-care by taking regular breaks throughout the day and getting enough sleep. Finally, it's essential for consultants to make time for activities outside of work that bring them joy.