I have been working as a consultant for 4 years now. It’s been a great 4 years and I do not regret making the move in to Consulting at all. The breadth of technology I am now involved with and the ability to work in new and exciting ways have been just a few of the perks. However, I did encounter a shock with the amount of time that Consulting can take you away from your home life.
I come from an Support Engineer background, working in house for businesses at one location, 5 days a week. There was the odd travel to remote sites but they were few and far between. It’s safe to say that when I moved in to Consulting, there was a culture shock. I was no longer home for dinner every night, I was spending a lot of time in hotels, time with my Wife was reduced. Whilst it took time, it did start to have an effect on my home life and my own professional life.
It took time, and after consulting with my line manager and other senior colleagues I found ways to help make this situation I found myself in manageable.
Take hobbies with you, not work
It’s very easy, when away from home, to work in the evenings. Catching up on work that may have been postponed, or getting a head start on other work can be beneficial at times. However, if it becomes the norm, you quickly find yourself working 12 hour shifts. I think it’s important to take some of your hobbies with you on the road. If you cycle as a hobby, take your bike with you (if you’re driving). Find somewhere local you can take your bike for a ride. If you read as a hobby, take a selection of books to wind down of an evening. Even taking a personal device to watch Netflix, or catch up on shows you like to watch. By bringing a piece of home normality with you to where you are staying helps separate work from your own time.
Talk to your customer
There is no harm is talking to your customer and seeing if there is any room to work remotely. I often find that it’s beneficial to head to site for the first week or so of a longer term engagement to get a feel for the customer and build a relationship. Once you have a relationship with a customer, why not ask if you can continue your work remotely. There are many ways for this to work. The customer may provide you with a device to use to remote in, or provide another means of accessing their environment. I have used Citrix to remote in to customer environments and been given devices to work from. A lot of my work now is cloud-based. So as long as i have access to the Internet and sufficient protection around my authentication, then some customers are happy for me to work from my company device.
This is all based on trust with the customer too. If I am on a 5 week engagement and I am allowed to work remotely then I generally suggest I come back to the customer’s office during the final few days. I also advise that i can be flexible and if there are issues that need remediating and they are best face to face, then I will travel to site for a few days. This can help influence the customer’s decision if they know you are not intending to sit in your underwear drinking beer at home whilst working. That will not fill them with confidence.
There are plenty of articles around the benefits or exercise and how it can affect the brain etc, I won’t go in to any of that here. However, my reason to mention exercise is because it can be so easy to find yourself eating out every night in restaurants or having take away meals during lunch and dinner. It all depends on where you are located, but it can lead to one thing…weight gain. I personally noticed this and it is something I still struggle with when I am away (my self-discipline for a KFC is weak), so I began trying to introduce exercise in to my routine. I use training apps and have started to go on runs in the evenings and I have noticed a difference. I do find it difficult to maintain but I would recommend trying to exercise when away.
Make time for loved ones of a weekend
Being away all week can be a strain on family life. It’s important to make time for them when you can, and weekends are usually the best time. If you are able to work remotely, this makes things easier but be sure to schedule in time with loved ones when you can. Whilst working away can be a big shock for you, your family will also feel the same shock. This is something I can not stress enough and spending time with your loved ones can make spending the week away a little bit more bareable.
They are just a few things that I have found helped me during my time as a Consultant. I struggled in the beginning but have found a way to make it manageable. There was a time I thought about walking away from the Consulting lifestyle but at this time, i am gled I didn’t. Not everything above will work for everyone, and not everyone will enjoy a life of Consulting. There’s nothing wrong with that, but i’s important to find a good work/life balance, especially when you may be away from home for some time.