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How is the work/life balance/working hours in Middle East?

Anonymous A asked on Nov 23, 2018 - 3 answers


I am thinking of applying for an internship in Middle East as an expat at a 2nd Tier consulting firm (in this case Oliver Wyman). Their consultants are all based in Dubai, but a lot of the projects are in Saudi Arabia.

From some people I have heard that working in Middle East is even harder than in Western Europe and Germany (all nighters are pretty common, work on weekends etc.).

Can you confirm this?

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replied on Nov 27, 2018
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Based on friends and colleagues in the middle east, It is definitely known as a tough Geography to work in, in terms of hours. This is due to a couple reasons:

  • A lot of growth/strategy cases that are very demanding by nature due to ambiguity and often starting from nothing
  • Typically less good client counterparts (especially at junior levels)- which means worse data to clean/work with, less effective/efficient meetings, etc.
  • Extremely high growth has meant that some people hired into consulting/manager roles haven't necessarily been vetted for quality and culture of firms - which can lead to unsustainable projects
  • Also due to high growth and relatively nascent stage of offices: cases more likely to be mis-scoped or under-resourced (i.e. too small a team for too big a task). Sometimes a project that should require 5 people simply can't be fully staffed because there are only 4 people available in the office.

That said - Dubai is not necessarily any worse than some of the tougher countries in Europe - e.g. Italy, Spain, Germany - and almost definitely not as bad as East Asian countries - i.e. Japan and Korea.

replied on Nov 23, 2018
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work/life balance is somewhat company and geography specific, but not much. The type of consulting project and especially the client / manager are most important. Here are some rule of thumbs:

1. Asia (esp. China, Korea) have the worst work/life balance

2. Due Diligence & M&A projects have the worst work/life balance

3. No single type of project will systematically offer an easy work/life balance

Company wise, they all have to balance working you to death and keeping you from resigning. Every company will brag about their great work life balance, don't necessarily fall for it. Ultimately, it shouldn't matter too much though: the more you work, the more you learn.

My recommendation is going into consulting with the mindset that work/life balance will be bad. On projects that have a good WLB, you will just be pleasantly surprised.

replied on Nov 23, 2018
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According to the internal studies at McKinsey, Middle East was not in the top 3 regions with people complaining about work-life balance


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