HR in the Consulting Industry: Lessons from Australia’s "Great Burnout"

Consulting Industry Australia Burnout

By Yao Tang - Business Development

In the wake of the widely discussed "great resignation" phenomenon in the United States, a similar trend, albeit less dramatic, has been observed among our clients in Australia. In the course of discussions with HR professionals we’ve heard one theme repeat itself:

Despite not experiencing an extraordinary surge in resignations, there's a palpable sense of burnout, characterized by extreme fatigue and mental exhaustion, among workers, which has resulted in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and resistance towards returning to the office post-COVID-19.

To delve deeper into this concerning trend, researchers from The University of Melbourne conducted a comprehensive study in 2022. Surveying 1,400 employed Australians, the study aimed to assess their well-being and work experiences two years after the onset of the pandemic. Regrettably, the findings paint a less-than-ideal picture, emphasizing the widespread symptoms of burnout among workers.

The Burnout Landscape in Australia and Beyond

Burnout is not exclusive to Australia; it's a global concern with serious implications for individuals' health, well-being, and productivity. The consulting industry, a historically demanding sector worldwide, is not immune to this challenge. Several factors contribute to burnout in this industry:

  • High Workload: Consultants often grapple with demanding client projects, tight deadlines, and extended working hours, creating an intense pressure to deliver results.
  • Travel Requirements: Frequent travel, a common aspect of some consulting roles, leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, posing challenges for those spending extended periods away from home and family.
  • Client Expectations: The industry places high expectations on consultants to meet client demands and deliver valuable insights. Balancing these expectations with personal well-being is an ongoing challenge.
  • Variability in Workload: Consulting work is inherently cyclical, with periods of intense activity followed by relative calm. This variability can result in irregular working hours and heightened stress.
  • Project-Based Nature: Constant adaptation to new teams and clients, a characteristic of project-based work, can be mentally taxing for consultants.
  • Remote Work Challenges: The shift towards more remote work and virtual engagements due to the COVID-19 pandemic introduces new challenges related to work-life balance and feelings of isolation.

Addressing Burnout: Solutions for Individuals and Organizations

In the Australian context the issue has been recognised by government, which has implemented various mental health initiatives and programs to address burnout and improve access to mental health care. However, consulting firms, being on the frontline of this issue, shouldn’t wait for government solutions.

Tackling burnout requires a collective effort from both individuals and organizations. Individuals are encouraged to prioritize self-care, set boundaries, manage stress, and seek support when needed. Organizations, on the other hand, play a pivotal role in promoting a healthy work environment. This includes encouraging breaks, offering flexible work arrangements, and providing mental health resources and support.

Concrete steps include:

  • Workload Management: Firms can assess and manage consultants' workloads to prevent overburdening. This might involve adjusting project assignments and schedules.
  • Mentorship and Support: Provide mentorship and support systems for junior consultants, helping them navigate the challenges of the industry and manage stress.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexible work arrangements, including remote work options, to help consultants achieve a better work-life balance.
  • Training and Resources: Provide training on stress management, resilience, and mental health awareness. Offer access to mental health resources and counselling services.
  • Regular Feedback: Encourage regular feedback between consultants and their managers to address concerns and identify early signs of burnout.
  • Promote a Healthy Culture: Foster a culture that values work-life balance, self-care, and well-being. Lead by example from the top down.
  • Diverse Project Assignments: Rotate consultants through different types of projects to keep work engaging and prevent monotony.
  • Mental health awareness: This should be a priority for employers and society at large, with ongoing efforts to reduce stigma and encourage open conversations about burnout. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can offer confidential counselling and support services to those experiencing stress and burnout.

It's worth noting that addressing burnout is not only the responsibility of consulting firms but also requires individual consultants to take proactive steps to manage their well-being and communicate their needs effectively.

Burnout in the consulting industry can be a complex issue, but with awareness and proactive measures, it is possible to mitigate its impact and promote a healthier work environment. Nevertheless, as we saw with our Australian contacts in the HR departments of consulting firms, it was their awareness, identification and concern to address the issue that lead to launching effective mitigation programmes and improvements for all concerned.

Tailored Collaboration for Success

Vencon Research is your collaborative partner in navigating the complexities of HR management in the consulting industry. Our bespoke recommendations are crafted with your unique needs in mind, ensuring local relevance and global consistency. Contact Vencon Research today to discover HR solutions for your company's success in the global consulting arena.


Leah, R., Brendan, C., &David, B. (2023, March 19). The 'great resignation' didn't happen in Australia, but the 'great burnout' did. Find an'great-resignation'-didn't-happen-in-australia--but-the-'great-burnout'-did

Sarah, S. (2023, April 14). The Great Burnout: Exhausted Aussie workers forced into ‘quiet quitting’ and resignations.

Steve, H, Tim, C., &Mackenzi, G. (2023, May 4). Seven strategies to avoid employee burnout Prioritizing employee well-being in the workplace. Deloitte. Com