Achieving Work Life Balance as a Consultant: Is It Possible?

Wooden blocks displaying 'work' and 'life' in balance, highlighting consulting work life balance.

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Management consulting is a fast-paced and intellectually challenging career that offers many opportunities for growth and development. However, it is also notorious for its demanding workload and long hours, which can make striking a healthy work life balance a challenging feat. In this article, we explore the realities of work life balance for consultants and the steps that can be taken to achieve a more balanced lifestyle in the consulting industry.

If you’re currently a consultant and struggling, consider reading our Consulting Survival Guide

The Reality of Work Life Balance in Consulting

It is important to recognize that the concept of work life balance can vary from one person to another based on their individual priorities and preferences. For some, a successful work life balance may mean working long hours during the week and enjoying weekends off, while for others it may involve finding ways to balance work and personal commitments on a daily basis.

Typical Consulting Workload

A consultant’s workload can vary greatly depending on the number of projects they are involved in and the stage of each project. Projects can range from a few weeks to several years in duration, and consultants may have some control over their workload by planning when their busiest weeks will be. This can provide some level of predictability and control over their consulting work life balance.

However, it is not consultants generally work at a minimum 50 hours per week, but 80 hours per week and more during particularly busy periods. This level of workload can make it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance, especially when considering the demanding nature of the projects they are working on.

Working Environment in Consulting Firms

The work life balance for consultants may also vary depending on the type of consulting firm they work for. In larger firms such as the Big Four, consultants can expect to work an average of 10.3 hours of overtime per week. In contrast, boutique consulting firms tend to have a lower rate of overtime, providing a potentially better option for those seeking a more balanced lifestyle.

Strategies for Improving Work Life Balance in Consulting

While achieving a perfect work life balance may be challenging in the consulting industry, there are strategies that can be employed to improve the balance between work and personal life.

1. Set Realistic Expectations

It is important to set realistic expectations for yourself when it comes to achieving a work life balance as a consultant. Recognize that some periods will be more hectic than others, and plan accordingly. Be prepared to make adjustments to your personal life during these times in order to maintain a sense of balance.

2. Prioritize Personal Needs and Activities  – Establish Boundaries

Make a conscious effort to prioritize your personal needs and activities alongside your professional responsibilities. Ensure that you take time for self-care, exercise, socializing, and hobbies to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life.

Understand and discern the essential aspects of your work from the non-essential ones. Recognize that certain tasks can be postponed until the next day. It’s vital to identify the work that matters and focus your energy on those areas for optimal efficiency and productivity.

3. Embrace the Concept of Iteration and the 80/20 Rule

It may sound counter-intuitive, but you should avoid striving for perfection before getting initial feedback on your work. Utilize the 80/20 rule to concentrate on the tasks that will yield the most significant results. Understand that feedback is a part of the process and be prepared for your work to undergo revisions after review by your superiors.

4. Utilize Time Management Techniques and Enhance Your Efficiency

Effective time management is essential for maintaining a healthy work life balance as a consultant. Develop a daily schedule that includes time for both work and personal activities, and stick to it as closely as possible. Consider using tools and techniques such as time blocking, to-do lists, and prioritization to help you stay organized and on track.

Adopt efficient work methods to create more personal time. Consider multitasking your personal tasks, like combining sports activities with social catch-ups, to maximize your free time. Efficiency isn’t just about professional work, but also how you manage your personal life and activities.

4. Optimize Resources and Invest in Services

Given your earning capacity, consider investing in services that can save you time. This could include services like dry cleaning, home cleaning, babysitting, and pre-prepared meals. Prioritize your health by utilizing your food budget to consume healthy meals without the additional time required for preparation.

5. Communicate with Your Team and Managers

Open communication with your team and managers is crucial for achieving a work life balance in consulting. Discuss your workload, project deadlines, and personal commitments with your team to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can work together to find a balance that works for all parties involved.

6. Leverage Company Policies and Initiatives

Many consulting firms have recognized the importance of work-life balance for their employees and have implemented policies and initiatives to support a healthier balance. These may include flexible work arrangements, part-time options, and mental health resources. Take advantage of these offerings to help improve your work-life balance as a consultant.

Balancing Work and Personal Life in Different Consulting Firm Segments

The work life balance for consultants can vary significantly depending on the size and type of consulting firm they work for. Here, we explore the key differences in work-life balance across different consulting firm segments.

Consultants in suits discussing at a desk, exemplifying the work environment of a Work life balance consultant.

Strategy Consultancies

In strategy consultancies, 100% of consultants report working overtime, with an average of 20 hours per week. This is due to the high-pressure environment and the demanding nature of strategy consulting projects. However, these firms often offer generous compensation packages and benefits to attract and retain top talent, which can help offset the long hours.

Skyscrapers representing the Big Four firms, emphasizing the challenge of consulting work life balance.

Big Four Consultancies

Consultants working in the Big Four firms can expect to work an average of 10.3 hours of overtime per week, with 88% of consultants reporting working beyond their contracted hours. Although these firms are known for their long hours, they also offer a wide range of resources and support for consultants to help manage their work life balance, such as flexible working arrangements and mental health resources.

View into a busy consulting office, highlighting the quest for work life balance as a consultant.

Boutique Consultancies

Boutique consulting firms generally have the lowest levels of overtime among consulting firms, with 33% of consultants reporting not working beyond their contracted hours. These smaller firms often have more flexible working environments and a greater emphasis on work life balance, making them an attractive option for consultants seeking a more balanced lifestyle.

Challenges and Opportunities for Work Life Balance in Consulting

While consultants face several challenges when it comes to achieving a healthy work life balance, there are also opportunities for improvement. By understanding the factors that contribute to work-life imbalance and implementing strategies to address them, consultants can take steps towards a more balanced lifestyle in the consulting industry.


  • High workload and long hours
  • Project-based work with fluctuating demands
  • High-pressure working environment
  • Client expectations and travel requirements


  • Flexible working arrangements and part-time options
  • Company policies and initiatives focused on work life balance
  • Improved time management and communication
  • Leveraging technology to facilitate remote work and increased efficiency


Achieving a healthy work life balance as a consultant can be challenging due to the demanding nature of the industry. However, by setting realistic expectations, prioritizing personal needs, utilizing time management techniques, communicating openly with team members and managers, and leveraging company policies and initiatives, consultants can work towards achieving a more balanced lifestyle in the consulting industry.

If you are truly struggling on the job, read my consulting survival guide, which provides key tips on how to succeed in consulting. Additionally, consider coaching – I have helped countless candidates take control of their consulting role, better manage their work, and even get out of their performance management plans.

To close, here are some tips from the consulting survival guide:

  • This job is inherently stressful, and you are not going to be the first person to struggle with stress. Consulting firms have mechanisms in place to try to keep consultants from burning out. If you are struggling, reach out early.
  • There will always be pressure, but not every task will make or break the bank. If the success or failure of the project relies solely on the one slide you’re making, there are bigger issues going on.
  • Having a life you are happy with is more important than being the perfect consultant. Figure out not just what is critical at work, but also at home. Knowing what is most important and when will help you strike the right balance.
  • If you find you’re working until 1am every night, take a look at your balance. Unless you’re working on a “make or break” task, try to leave early enough that you can pause, get a decent night’s sleep, and come in fresh the next morning.
  • You will do your best work once you are okay with being fired.
  • Your Project Lead/Principal is not inside your head. Learn how to communicate and guide their attention to what they need to know. Work to their style and your life will be easier.
  • You have to stand up for yourself. And people will respect you for it (98% of the time).
  • People’s perception of your performance is just as important as your performance.
  • Once you hit 12-18 months tenure, you have more power to say “no” than you think you do.

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