An analysis of work-life balance in consulting

18 September 2019 5 min. read
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The consulting industry is infamous for seeing employees work beyond normal hours, with many consultants said to spend up to 80 hours on their job every week. However, new research suggests that consultants are on-the-whole actually quite happy with their work-life balance.

As the labour market continues to tighten, many companies have looked to show prospective employees they can offer an improved balance between recreation and work – something which has particularly concerned the consulting sector. While consulting still attracts large amounts of new talent with its challenging work, high intellectual tasks and attractive benefits, the industry has a bad reputation when it comes to work-life balance.

The nature of the job compels consultants to demonstrate a huge time commitment, with client project deadlines and internal work creating a formidable workload. As a result, most management consultants have to work between 50 up to 80 hours in a week to meet the demands of clients, while seven-in-ten consultants at top firms work more than their contract hours. On top of this, as it is not typical for consulting firms to pay overtime fees; on average, consultants work 9.3 hours per week more than they are paid.

How many hours do consultants actually work each week

Despite this, however, a new survey from Consulting Success has found that consultants are actually quite happy with life in the industry. The global poll of over 34,000 respondents found that just under two-thirds of consultants were to some extent satisfied with their career, despite the vast majority working more than the standard 40-hour-week.

In line with previous research, roughly 71% of those polled said they worked over 40 hours on an average week. In contrast only 17% of consultants said they worked between 30-39 hours. While it is difficult to pin-point just how many of the 40-49 hour category actually work more than the standard 40-hour-week, it is unlikely to be 21% of those in that category, meaning more than half of those asked to work an extended week.

Despite this, for the most part, consultants still seem content with the time they spend away from work. A large 43% of consultants said they were not satisfied with the time they have for their personal lives – but the majority of those polled said they were happy with their lot at the firm. 99% of consultants said they found at least some time to socialise with friends and family – 49% saying they occasionally meet with friends throughout the week.

Do consultants consider themselves to be in good shape - How often do consultants exercise

Using vacations also plays a key role in keeping consultants happy. Only 4% of consultants said they never take holidays, while 20% of consultants take a quarterly break. Of the professionals who took quarterly holidays, 40% said they are “very content” with their lives – contrasting sharply to only 11% of the 22% who rarely take vacations.

Physically speaking, most consultants seem to be healthy, suggesting that they have the adequate work-life balance to keep themselves going. A majority of 58% said they work out more than one day each week (19% exercise every day), while of those asked, 44% considered themselves to be relatively fit, while 35% said they were in good shape. Fifty percent of consultants said they sleep the recommended 7-8 hours each night, and 70% of these respondents additionally felt satisfied with the time they have for personal activities.

Content overall 

Thanks to all this, the majority of consultants stated they were happy with their businesses. While 32% of consultants said they were somewhat discontent, and 8% said they were very discontent. At the same time, 43% said they were at least somewhat discontent with their business, and 17% were very content. 

How content are consultant with their businesses

Beyond work, 52% of consultants said they were somewhat content with their lives. Meanwhile, 32% of consultants said they were very content with their lives. This does not mean that there is no room for improvement in the industry though, and consulting firms would be well advised not to rest on their laurels when it comes to the health of employees. 

Of the consultants polled, 49% reported feeling depressed at least some of the time, while almost one-tenth said they were depressed most of the time. Just under half also reported feeling lonely at least moderately, while on a scale of one to 10, a quarter of those polled said eight or higher – suggesting that a large number of consultants are not being adequately supported when it comes to their mental health.