Most employees appreciate the importance of balancing their professional obligations against the time they need to enjoy life outside the office. But work-life balance is more than just a buzzword.
According to the American Institute of Stress, nearly 80% of US professionals report feeling stressed by their work. Studies on family conflict show that added work pressure exerts a significant negative influence on happiness at home, and poor work-life balance correlates to chronic health conditions like depression, insomnia, and even high cholesterol.
A little counter-intuitively, it’s bad for companies too. Research on organizational performance consistently finds that stifling work demands produce poorer social exchanges across an organization, decrease financial efficiencies, incur more sick days and health expenses, and correspond with a pronounced uptick in staff turnover.
The research leaves little room for doubt: A poor work-life balance isn’t good for personal well-being or the corporate bottom line.
Here’s the unfortunate paradox, though. We know work-life balance is a win-win for companies and the employees who work for them, but that doesn’t automatically mean businesses are making positive changes. Balancing work and home life isn’t as simple as acknowledging its importance. Progress requires a combination of well-formulated policy, management support, and sound business planning — and these improvements tend to happen gradually.
Some companies, however, are ahead of the curve. Here are four firms that get work-balance right, albeit in surprisingly different ways.
Navigant Consulting is a global professional services firm with a mission to help businesses build their strategic position and effectively mitigate risk. Navigant describes itself as a “go-to” consulting firm. Whatever transitional or strategic roadblocks a business encounters, Navigant’s consulting experts are equipped to help the company rise to the challenge.
This consulting group has a lot of moving parts. Their executives are employed to lend seasoned mental and corporate bandwidth to complicated problems, drawing from a demanding blend of creativity, energy, and insight. A key strategy the company employs to mitigate the risk of burnout is to keep a close eye on working hours. In fact, the average working week in Navigant is around 40 hours, according to employee reviews.
The company’s benefits package further reinforces its genuine commitment to work-life balance. They offer a wide variety of flexible working arrangements, from telecommuting and flexible hours to more unusual options like job sharing and compressed workweeks. If employees are committed to quality, they can determine for themselves how to pass the finishing line.
It’s a dynamic approach and one that’s backed by a solid body of research. Flexible working hours tend to produce higher levels of perceived schedule control, an improved ratio of productive to unproductive working time, and a marked reduction in staff turnover.
Navigant sets an example as a business that supports work-life balance, with a generous combination of low working hours and HR policies designed to offer as much flexibility as possible to employees.
Learn how to tame interview anxiety with advice from an Executive Career Coach.
The Ignyte Group is a boutique branding and digital marketing consulting firm. This company emphasizes relationship-building between their in-house consultants and clients; their consultants are business branding partners who are invested in their clients’ success.
Ignyte is a high-energy company, with an average working week of around 50 hours. To maintain a work-life balance within its corporate rank and file, Ignyte has adopted a similar approach to Navigant. The company offers a range of flexible working hours and encourages an individualized combination of telecommuting and flexible hour allocation. According to employee reviews, the company is highly rated for flexible scheduling, telecommuting, and paid leave. Ignyte easily clears the bar as a company that takes the work-life balance of its people seriously — a commitment that’s also reflected in employee reviews. In Ivy Exec’s 2019 survey, almost 90% of employees rated Ignyte as a great place to work.
However, Ignyte has another interesting ace up its sleeve. The company has made the unusually prescriptive policy decision to set a mandatory four weeks of time-off. Research on the impact of enforced time-off suggest it’s a win-win for companies and employees alike. One study found mandatory time-off improves internal communications and increases professional development, two vital assets for a learning company like Ignyte. It also promotes a higher level of staff loyalty and commitment to the company’s mission.
Slalom Consulting is a business management consulting group that helps businesses tackle transitional challenges. The company’s mission is to assist clients through times of ambiguity and risk. They achieve this by developing strategic road maps for growth, developing evidence-based performance improvement plans, and advising their clients during complicated change processes, including mergers, acquisitions, and brand re-identification.
Internally, Slalom places great emphasis on sharing ideas across industry teams to develop innovative approaches, a process requiring dynamic and effective communication across varied skill sets. Slalom also supports a culture of ambition, and this is reflected in its average working week, which pushes up to 50 hours or more.
Despite its demanding workplace culture, Slalom is consistently recognized as a great place to work. Four years in a row, it was voted one of the best companies to work for by Fortune 100, and it sits on Glassdoor’s 2018 and 2019 Best Places to Work lists.
Much of its commitment to work-life balance manifests in a “work where you live” philosophy. Employees are invited to work for the company in their hometown, greatly reducing transitional stresses. They also offer a generous package of benefits, including above industry-standard parental leave. With its emphasis on supporting family life, Slalom manages to demonstrate their commitment to work-life balance, while simultaneously reinforcing a work culture that’s dedicated to serving clients.
Delta Partners is a leading advisory and investment firm. They specialize in the telecommunications, media, and tech sectors and support a diverse, multi-disciplinary team of experts. The company provides a uniquely integrated platform of services, drawing from conventional management consulting but also incorporating insights and expertise from corporate finance and investment planning. They’re a global company with a “client first” mentality.
On the surface, Delta looks like a company that requires significant time commitments. Their product is predicated on blending traditionally separate silos of expertise into one integrated platform. Accordingly, they attract employees who are prepared to be creative, energetic, and completely engaged in their clients’ outcome. As with many consulting firms, most employees travel between 2-4 days per week to meet with clients onsite.
However, while the company makes no bones about its high standards, Delta also offers telecommuting flexibility, extended maternity leave, and an unusual sabbatical program. This provision allows staff to up-skill or broaden their knowledge base without sacrificing family time. They’ve also found novel solutions for the company’s intense travel demands, providing a “weekend pack,” which gives staff the option to return home and “relax and refresh.” Employees receive an extra day off per quarter to enjoy a long weekend.
If you decide you’d prefer not to work full-time, Delta Partners also has a solution for you: Consultants can choose to work 80% part-time on an annual basis.
Delta is undoubtedly a company that requires rigorous work ethic. But they’re a good example of a business that finds creative ways to counterbalance intense energy demands with employee perks and appreciation.
Finding a Job in the Consulting Industry
Most companies will pay at least some level of lip service to promoting the idea of work-life balance. However, there’s a much shorter list of companies that are genuinely committed to the cause. Navigant Consulting, Ignyte Group, Slalom Consulting, and Delta Partners take initiatives to provide healthier and happier conditions for their employees.
To learn more about the consulting firms Ivy Exec members have reviewed, visit the 2019 Consulting Firm Rankings. Every year, Ivy Exec issues a survey among current and recent employees to rate agencies based on their work-life balance, compensation, leadership, culture, and other working conditions. This year, 5,000 study participants at various levels submitted detailed reviews.
Preparing for a job interview? Here’s what you need to know about negotiating your salary.