The Working in senior management consulting firms is often a stressful and intense experience, with work weeks that can stretch up to 80 hours or more. It's no secret that such long hours can have a detrimental effect on one's health, social life, and family in the long run. Studies from around the world have confirmed the long working hours of consultants over the years. While long consulting days and the expectation of “working overtime, all the time” are widely accepted as occupational hazards, the risks of a poor work-life balance are multiple and well-documented.
In recent years, consulting firms have been implementing more policies that offer consultants the opportunity to take time off from work to relax and recharge their batteries. In a notoriously intense work environment, consulting demands a lot of time and intellectual energy from consultants, which can make it difficult to achieve a positive 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 many HR departments and partners in the consulting sector. On average, junior consultants work more overtime than consultants, but this number increases again as they advance through their ranks.
In the big four companies, the number of people working overtime increases to 88%, with an average of 10.3 consulting overtime. While there are advantages to long consulting days when it comes to providing services to demanding clients, there may be no incentive to get to the root of these problems. Consulting firms may register positive feelings on the part of their consultants' staff, but employees' mental acuity and physical health don't always measure up to the PMA they project. However, there are clear differences between the different segments and ranks of consulting firms, as well as between men and women.
In short, the impact of long consulting hours on employees' physical and mental health is detrimental to individuals and companies alike. However, given the recognized detrimental impact of burnout on consulting firms and their employees, there is an ethical and business incentive to keep trying. For independent thinkers, McKinsey may still be a good place to develop their suite of consulting tools for a few years, although they may not want to be “for life”. Consulting attracts a motivated workforce, usually early-stage professionals who do not have the triggers for conflicts between work and personal life (partner, children, etc.).
Even if consultants are able to perceive their work lives in a positive way, their health and intellectual abilities can continue to decline.