Seven ways consultants can manage work-life balance

16 September 2019 5 min. read
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With work-life balance fast becoming one of the top watchwords in modern employment, many consultants are looking for ways to dodge the dreaded ‘burn-out’ and maintain healthier working schedules. In her new book titled ‘The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond’, author Elaine Biech outlines seven ways how consultants can successfully achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Consulting, like many other industries such as accounting, investment banking and law, is known for the challenging work, high intellectual tasks and attractive benefits. While this can be exciting, on the other hand the nature of the job often compels consultants to go above and beyond to meet project deadlines for clients as well as internal work. As a result, 77% of consultants say they work more than their contracted hours, with most ploughing between 50 up to 80 hours into their job every week.

Consulting is therefore notorious for its challenging work-life balance, as well as its propensity for pushing professionals towards a burn-out. Burn-out is usually a direct result of employees being overwhelmed and overworked, leading to anxiety, fatigue, depression, anger, and other negative effects. According to a new book from business expert Elaine Biech, consultants can avoid this and maintain a healthy work-life balance with seven key steps, including remaining conscientious of their personal needs, and remembering the world does not begin and end with work.

Seven ways consultants can manage work-life balance

1. Identify imbalance

According to Biech, the most important step on the road to a healthier work-life balance is to acknowledge where imbalance exists. In order to help visualise where problems exist, Biech’s book encourages consultants to write down the three things they value most in life, and analyse if they are actually prioritising those things each day.

2. Remember to enjoy your work

Hurrying through each project just to get to the next one is one of the most harmful things a consultant can do to themselves. It not only ends up using a great deal more energy, but will divorce the consultant from aspects of the job that they presumably got into the industry for in the first place.

Biech explains, "If you love what you do, you may be missing some of the fun! Much of the pleasure may be in the doing. Be mindful. Stay in the moment while you're working. This may not curb the hours, but it will make them more enjoyable!"

3. Take time off

Like any other line of work, consultants can slip into the habit of presenteeism, denying themselves time to relax and recuperate in order to meet deadlines, but ultimately reducing their productivity. Every working professional needs breaks to rejuvenate, even during work trips, according to Biech. Breaks don't always have to be vacations either. At the very least, if a consultant has a client meeting which ends early for example, they could go for a walk or grab a coffee to help create balance. 

4. Explore other interests

Consultants need make sure they work to live, and do not live to work. A busy job doesn't have to take over your life, and Biech states that in fact it should not. Working professionals of all walks of life need to find hobbies and interests outside of work. It is unhealthy to fixate an entire life on one thing, so a hobby can help create some much needed balance.

5. Take advantage of being at home

Working from home is often referred to as a key mechanism of flexibility, which allows consultants to juggle employment with family responsibilities etc. However, it also comes with its own unique set of trappings. Sometimes, working from home can make it more difficult to stop working, and Biech recommends going for a walk at lunch time, visiting the gym in the evenings, or even reading the morning paper, as ways to take personal time.

6. Pay attention to how you spend your time

At the root of work-life balance is time management. Biech states that consultants must become good at prioritising to get what they want out of life. Professionals can manage their time by working on several large projects rather than dozens of smaller ones, creating and sticking to daily objectives, and scheduling calls and emails.

7. Make your own rules

Burn-out and heavy workloads are leading a growing number of consultants to eke out a living as independents, leaving firms to become their own boss and enjoying a better work-life balance as a result. Biech agrees that Being your own boss means you can set your own hours, and can help consultants to recognise that not everything has to be accomplished in one day. Biech suggests setting boundaries, with an example being, "If it's not done by 6:00 p.m., it will wait until tomorrow."