Leader – Can you take much more of this?

Ask any junior doctor why they have the drained look of the drawn junkie and they will tell you, “it’s the hours”. As the rookies fall prey to nervous exhaustion in a quiet corner of the casualty ward, the senior practitioners refuse to acknowledge the problem. After all, they had to go through exactly the same exacting treatment when they were in training. The philosophy remains, “if it was good enough for me – then it’s good enough for the young ‘uns”.

Regrettably, such a philosophy reigns within the major consultancy practices the world over. Joint-crippling graft is seen as the only way to get on. Look up at the offices of any consultancy and just watch the fluorescent strips flicker and the screen phosphor burn deep into the night, as young consultants make the grade. Husbands, wives and “significant others” at home can go hang in the pursuit of promotion. If the long hours weren’t enough reason for consultants to abandon home life, the inordinate amount of travel assignments is sure to guarantee a life free from family, leisure and sleep. How much longer can this go on? A number of consultancies have realised that enough is enough. Recruits to the consultancy profession are much in demand and can, to an extent, dictate terms. The consultancies have realised this and are trying to create a more lifestyle-oriented approach to work. It will be an approach that allows for limited working hours, limited travel and even lifestyle counselling. Organisations such as PwC have realised that it is no longer sufficient to be thought as an “important” company to work for, they must become the “employer of choice”. PwC will, in the next few months, release plans detailing its employer of choice programme. Other consultancies will follow suit.

Lifestyle coaches are already in place within some firms, employed to advise, cajole and ease the load of staff at all levels.

However commendable this move is, there remains one problem. Consultancies can provide you with a job where you will work less unsociable hours, where the travel requirement will not enforce a lifestyle that even the flying dutchman would not tolerate – but you must ask yourself, “Will I take them up on it? Have I got the guts to take it easy?” Consultancies have long been known as hard taskmasters and the volte-face they have now taken in trying to woo the new recruits and mollify the existing staff is a bold move. Will you take an equally brave step and take your bosses up on it?

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