How Many Hours Do Consultants Really Work?

As a result of the demanding nature of the job, most management consultants have to work 50-80 hours a week, giving the consultancy a reputation for challenging work-life balance. Studies around the world have confirmed the long working hours of consultants over the years. Academics found that the longest hours worked were at strategy consulting firms, where the weekly average was 60 hours. Millennial management consultants, on the other hand, worked as little as 50 hours a week.

To get a better understanding of what a typical work schedule looks like for a consultant, let's take an example of billable hours. Suppose that the contract for a ten-hour project states that 80% of total work hours will be considered billable. In this case, the client will pay the consultant eight hours, even if he has spent a total of ten hours of work. The working hours within the consulting industry can range from extremely long and exhausting (16 hours a day) to the typical 7-8 hours.

The wide variation in working hours is due to a number of different factors that affect a consultant's working day. It is often assumed that junior management consultants working 50 hours a week have it easy compared to Big Three strategy consultants (McKinsey, Bain, BCG) who are said to work much harder. However, consultants often ignore and deny the need to work as a team to increase their billable time, which ultimately jeopardizes their credibility. In the UK, 77% of consultants at the top of the market work more than their contracted hours. To improve work-life balance, consultancies are increasingly implementing policies that give consultants the space to take time off work to relax and recharge.

Some consultancies and field offices have encouraged teams to implement a “one night a week off” policy that allows consultants time for personal interests or to rest. The data also reveals that, as consultants with a longer tenure in a company work, on average, fewer overtime, highlighting the investments that consultants often take or need to familiarize themselves with a new environment. These cities and markets also tend to experience greater competition for work due to the number of smaller consultancies found there. Consulting firms can set hourly rates of pay and even calculate internal cost rates to measure consultation revenue. When hiring a consultant and signing the contract, both the client and the consulting firm agree to consider what percentage of hours should be billed. Comparing actual and estimated consulting hours allows consulting firms to establish reasonable billable hours for clients.

Consulting covers a wide range of job functions and there are many different types of consulting firms. In strategy consultancies, 100% of consultants say they work overtime, with an average of 20 overtime hours per week. Male consultants in positions of responsibility work longer, averaging 9.9 and 12.4 hours. Overall, it is clear that management consulting is an industry with long working hours and challenging work-life balance. However, consultancies are increasingly implementing policies that give consultants more space to take time off work and recharge.

This is essential for consultants to stay productive and maintain their credibility in order to succeed in their roles.

Frank Klinkenberg
Frank Klinkenberg

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