Top 10 cities with the best work-life balance

Top 10 cities with the best work-life balance


The ranking takes into account factors such as average working hours, the proportion of remote and hybrid working vacancies, and maternity leave policies.

Work-life balance has become integral to both personal happiness and professional success.

Over the past couple of years, companies have been forced to adjust to remote and hybrid working. This shift increased the emphasis on employee wellbeing, which is now proving crucial to recruitment and staff retention. So much so, that a recent study in the UK found that over half (54%) of British workers would accept a lower-paid job in exchange for a better work-life balance.

To get a better picture, the Forbes Advisor study reviewed 128 major cities across the globe to uncover which fared best in workers’ wellbeing, awarding each a score out of 100.

In making the decision. the following factors were taken into consideration: 

  • Gender Inequality Index ranking
  • Average working hours
  • Minimum legal annual leave
  • Property price-to-income ratio
  • The proportion of remote and hybrid working vacancies
  • Maternity leave policy
  • Parks and nature reserves per capita
  • Unemployment rate
  • Sunlight hours

Based on these factors, Forbes Advisor ranked the world’s cities for best work-life balance as follows:

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Work-life balance score: 70.5

Copenhagen is ranked the best city for a work-life balance with its strong emphasis on sustainability and high quality of life. This is reflected in its infrastructure, public transport, and green spaces.

Many companies in the Danish capital uphold 'hygge’ values (which focus on taking time to care about oneself and others, relaxing, and enjoying life’s quieter pleasures) within the workplace, offering flexible working hours and five-week minimum annual leave.

Additionally, unemployment rates are lower than in many other parts of Europe (2.4%) and companies offer a fair parental leave split of 52 weeks for both parents.

2. Helsinki, Finland

Work-life balance score: 65.1

Helsinki takes the second spot, with many benefits that promote a healthy work-life balance. The Finnish capital places a strong focus on community and a healthy lifestyle. Such aspects contribute to Finland's ranking at number one on the World Happiness Index, it was added.

As a country, Finland is known for its "progressive social policies", including fair parental leave after the birth of a child. With generous annual leave, Finnish workers typically enjoy up to five weeks of paid time off each year.

Additionally, many companies in Helsinki offer flexible working arrangements, such as remote work options, which help employees to balance their work responsibilities with personal obligations. Overall, more than half of the job vacancies advertised involved remote or hybrid working.

3. Stockholm, Sweden

Work-life balance score: 64.8

Full-time Swedish employees are entitled to 25 days of annual leave at minimum. On the other hand, employers regularly offer flexible work arrangements, with almost half (46%) of jobs found to be advertising hybrid or remote working.

Generous parental leave policies are also granted by employers, wherein parents entitled to up to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born, with each parent offered 240 days of paid leave.

4. Oslo, Norway

Work-life balance score: 63.2

While it is an expensive city, the Norwegian capital offers high wages and excellent quality of life.

Many companies in Oslo offer flexible working hours, allowing employees to manage their work schedules to fit their personal lives. This makes it easier to attend appointments, spend time with family and friends, and pursue hobbies or interests outside of work.

Oslo ranks sixth overall in the World Happiness Index.

5. Auckland, New Zealand:

Work-life balance score: 62.7

Auckland is the first city outside of Europe to rank in the top 10 in the Work-Life Balance Index. The city has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, making it a comfortable and enjoyable place to live and work. It is home to a growing and diverse economy, providing ample employment opportunities across a range of sectors.

The average employee works 26.3 hours weekly, meaning residents are able to enjoy the city’s rejuvenating environment and unwind after work. Full-time employees are entitled to four weeks of paid leave, and 11 public holiday days per year.

Additionally, unemployment is significantly lower than in other cities within the index, at 3.2%.

6. Gothenburg, Sweden

Work-life balance score: 60.7

Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, is seen as a great place for work-life balance — those living in Gothenburg enjoy 25 days of annual leave. The city also offers flexible working arrangements, with 42% of job vacancies advertised offering remote or hybrid working. 

7. Reykjavik, Iceland

Work-life balance score: 58.7

As shared, the Icelandic government actively promotes a healthy work-life balance, and many companies have adopted a flexible working model as a result, allowing employees to enjoy more leisure time.

Employees are entitled to 24 days of annual leave, as well as 12 public holidays. Flexible working is also encouraged, with 46% of remote and hybrid jobs advertised. 

8. Vienna, Austria

Work-life balance score: 58.5

The Austrian capital offers a range of social services, including free healthcare and education, contributing to residents’ well-being. All this equates to Austria scoring highly on the World Happiness Index.

Depending on hours worked, employees can enjoy an average of five weeks of annual leave, as well as 13 public holidays. Further, unemployment rates are just at 2.3%.

9. Edinburgh, Scotland

Work-life balance score: 57.1

Edinburgh is the first UK city to feature in the top 10 places to live for a work-life balance. 

With a generous annual leave policy granted (28 days), there is plenty of time to relax and enjoy the city’s various recreational activities. Additionally, employees are granted generous maternity leave, with full-time workers offered a minimum of 39 weeks’ pay.

10. Belfast, Northern Ireland

Work-life balance score: 57

The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast, is the second entry from the UK in the work-life balance index.

With its bustling yet relaxed atmosphere, Belfast offers a range of career opportunities without compromising on the quality of life. The city has a thriving economy and a rapidly growing tech sector, with a number of major employers in the area including Deloitte, CitiGroup, and Allstate.

Belfast has a lower cost of living and low property-price-to-income ratio compared to other major UK cities. Maternity leave is also generous and there are ample opportunities to enjoy all the city has to offer.

The full list of the top 25 cities is as follows:



Lead image / Shutterstock

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