Covid-19 is impacting mental health of independent consultants

30 June 2021 3 min. read
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The Covid-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on the mental health of consultants, according to a new report by Movemeon.

The matching platform for independent consultants (who work on freelance, interim or permanent basis) sent out a survey to its candidate community of over 50,000 consultants worldwide to explore topics including pay and job satisfaction, career aspirations and – new this year given the backdrop – the impact of Covid-19 on sentiment and the workplace. 

Honing in on the latter dimension, the research report found that nearly half (47%) of all respondents face a deteriorated mental health because of Covid-19. At one time, this figure could have been even higher due to the second wave of lockdowns in most European countries. Vaccines have brought some hope, but navigating the return to work now adds new uncertainties and anxieties.

Impact of Covid-19 on mental health

“If our data shows anything, it is that employers must take the mental health – and connected to that, the work-life balance – of their employees seriously if they want to retain their workforce in the long term -- in consulting and industry alike,” said the researchers.

The influencing factors

According to the study, there are a number of reasons why mental health has deteriorated over the past pandemic-stricken year. One is the economic pressures brought on by the pandemic have had a direct financial impact on most professionals. 20% of all corporates, consultancies and startups have had to take government support, including the UK furlough scheme, to continue operating. 

“The wide-spread financial challenges this brought are one of the reasons why mental health has taken a hit,” said the authors. 

Pay expectations

This has not been helped by lower pay than professionals could have expected even in the less affected occupations: there has been a 32% drop in the proportion of employees awarded a pay rise this year versus pre-pandemic. 

Second, working hours have increased on average by 4% during the pandemic. At 8%, private equity and venture capital professionals have seen the worst increase in their working hours, while consultants and corporate employees are in a better position with 2% and 1% increases, respectively. 

Adding to this, 91% of professionals have also found working from home a source of stress.

Working hours, Pre vs Post pandemic

Generally speaking, freelancers and alumni are happier than consultants. “This is because both former groups are significantly happier with their working hours, which tend to be lower, and they also tend to be happier with their compensation,” said the report’s authors.

The results stack up with a 2019 study by Eden McCallum which found that similarly independent consultants are more satisfied with their career than employed consultants. Meanwhile, another alike study (by Comatch) found that autonomy in career decisions and project work is another main reason why independent consultants tend to be happier than their employed counterparts. 

The report further found that employers have had varying degrees of success in handling the pandemic. Employees at the junior end of the scale have been especially critical of their employers’ responses, with 32% of Analysts harbouring a worse opinion of their employers. “As young people were some of the worst affected by job losses and furlough, this is perhaps unsurprising,” stated the researchers.