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Flexible work as a consultant? You’re dreaming

Consulting is not for individuals looking for the equivalent of a ‘nine-to-five’ job because clients still dictate project deadlines, warn four veteran advisers.

Consultants are dreaming if they expect to be able to take full advantage of new flexible working rules at the major firms as clients still dictate project deadlines, according to four veteran advisers.

The consultants – including leaders at KPMG, Accenture, Deloitte and a former senior PwC partner – say that while there is now more opportunity to work remotely and during non-standard hours, the role continues to have a heavy workload and is simply not suited for individuals looking for the equivalent of a nine-to-five job.


Jon Williams, a co-founder of boutique consultancy Fifth Frame and former senior partner at PwC, said the flexibility had to work both ways.

“Clients are much more accepting of flexible schedules from consulting staff now because they also allow flexible working in their own organisations. It’s become somewhat normal. That view took a while to take hold. It’s changed over the past four to five years as more companies went flex,” he said.

“What you’re doing is treating staff as adults and you want them to behave as responsible members of the team. The flexibility has to go both ways ... consulting is about responding to client needs, which is often out of working hours. If you’re going to be rigid about flexible working hours, it doesn’t work.”

He said clients come to consultants to solve problems they could not solve themselves.

“Clients want a solution to a complex problem they can’t solve themselves, often within an arbitrary time frame, and you want to give them the best possible solution in the time frame allowed. The only negotiable is how many hours of the time frame you use to solve the problem, and the keener, more ambitious you are, the more you choose to devote to it,” he said.


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