Study takes work-life balance to another dimension

A new study of work intensity, social well-being and liveability ranks to what degree citizens in 40 cities around the world can achieve a healthy work-life balance.

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Analysing data to guage the interplay between work and life, the Best Cities for Work-Life Balance 2019 Index assesses the conditions for ease of achieving a healthy work-life balance in 40 cities known for their attractiveness to professionals, and globally mobile employees and their families around the world.

An holistic approach to measuring work-life balance

Each city’s overall work-life score is based on factors related to the amount of time a person dedicates to their job. Researchers also measured how individuals in each city receive equal treatment. This includes accessibility to state-funded health and welfare programmes, gender and LGBT+ equality scores. Finally, the survey assesses how residents can enjoy their city after office hours. The survey’s author, mobile access technology company Kisi, intends that by comparing data on work intensity, institutional support, legislation and liveability in world cities, conversations about work-life balance can move beyond office culture and established metrics like cost of living, nightlife and tourist attractions towards a more holistic view of well-being. 

Which cities are best for work-life balance?

On its analysis, Helsinki, Munich, and Oslo top the index as the cities promoting the most holistic work-life balance. By contrast, the comparison found the most overworked cities in the study to be Tokyo, Singapore and Washington D.C.On average, employees in Barcelona (30.5 days) and Paris (30 days) take advantage of the most amount of holidays per year. Yet Stateside residents of San Francisco (9.7 days), San Diego (9.7 days), Washington D.C. (9.4 days), and Los Angeles (9.1 days) take the least.London, United Kingdom ranks number 12 out of 40 for work-life balance worldwide.  

Other key findings include:

  • Workers in Washington D.C. arrive at work latest (10:30 AM) followed by Hong Kong, Houston and Berlin. 
  • Citizens in Oslo work the least number of hours per week, at 38.9, followed by Sydney and Melbourne. 
  • Only 4 per cent of full-time employees work more than 48 hours in Oslo, Budapest, Stockholm, Milan and Barcelona. 
  • Helsinki and Paris offer the highest minimum number of vacation, at 30 days per year. 
  • Hong Kong and Singapore offer the lowest minimum number of vacation days, at 7 days per year. 
  • Workers in Barcelona take the highest number of vacation days, at 30.5, followed by Paris and Munich. 
  • Singapore has the lowest percentage of unemployment, at 2.1 percent, followed by Munich and Kuala Lumpur. 
  • Helsinki offers the highest number of maternal and parental leave days, at 1127, followed by Budapest and Oslo. 
  • Cleveland workers commute to work for the shortest amount of time, at 22.2 minutes, followed by Las Vegas and Portland. 
  • Paris spends the highest percentage of GDP on social expenditure, at 32 percent, followed by Helsinki and Milan. 
  • Australian cities have the highest healthcare score, followed by Japan and Italy. 
  • Oslo has the best access to mental healthcare, with a score of 68.9, followed by Zurich and Paris. 
  • Oslo has the highest gender equality score, at 77.9, followed by Stockholm and Helsinki. 
  • Stockholm has the highest LGBT+ equality score, followed by Toronto and London. 
  • Singapore has the highest safety score, at 100, followed by Tokyo and Toronto. 
  • Helsinki has the highest happiness score, at 100, followed by Oslo and Zurich. 
  • Munich has the lowest stressful city score, indicating the lowest levels of stress, at 15.8, followed by Sydney and Hamburg. 
  • Singapore has the highest outdoor spaces score, at 100, followed by Zurich and Hong Kong. 
  • Seattle has the lowest levels of air pollutants, at 4.8 µg/m3, followed by Portland and Stockholm. 
  • Zurich has the highest wellness & fitness score, at 100, followed by Tokyo and Ottawa. 
  • London has the highest leisure score, at 100, followed by Tokyo and New York. 

Why is wellbeing at work important?

With greater focus on employee well-being, including for business travellers and expatriates, creating and supporting healthy working environments and practices are becoming higher priorities for employers.This study raises awareness of the impact cities and countries can have on overall happiness and well-being, potentially adding a new dimension to understanding international assignments.  “It is important for us to note that our professional and personal lives are not, and should not be, mutually exclusive,” comments Bernhard Mehl, CEO of Kisi. “Whether it’s the long hours, unrealistic expectations from bosses or job insecurity, workplace stress has proven to affect our physical and mental health.”

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