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The best cities for work-life balance, according to researchers

Generous holiday allowance, parental leave and mental health support for workers helped Oslo, Bern and Helsinki top the index

Generous holiday allowance, parental leave and mental health support for workers helped Oslo, Bern and Helsinki top the index

Work. We spend a lot of time doing it and its impact on our lives is under greater scrutiny than ever. On Monday, the UK launched a trial of a four-day working week, with participating firms offering the same pay for fewer hours. Remote working, meanwhile, has become de rigueur since the pandemic, although it’s not for everyone – and, unfairly, not everyone has the option. 

It’s in this context that researchers have attempted to identify the best cities for work-life balance. The idea being to highlight the places that are getting it right in the hope that we can all learn something from them. 

Coming out on top was Oslo, the Norwegian capital, with Bern (Switzerland), Helsinki (Finland), Zurich (Switzerland) and Copenhagen (Denmark) rounding out the top five. The best performing UK city? That is Liverpool in 24th, ahead of Glasgow (25) and London (27). And the top US city? Seattle in 32nd.

Dubai (UAE), Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore and Montevideo (Uruguay) were identified as the five most overworked cities. 

The research was conducted by Kisi, a tech company specialising in workplace access. Its data crunchers first identified the 100 most in-demand cities to work in. Then they assessed them for work intensity, based on factors including holiday allowance, parental leave, the percentage of remote working jobs, unemployment figures and inflation rates. 

The role government and institutions play in providing a constructive living environment for citizens was also examined. Gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, quality of healthcare, and access to mental health support all helped determine the score. 

The best cities

Bern was one of three Swiss cities to make the top ten. Image: Alin Andersen

“Recent years have tested the support structures in place for employees around the world,” said Bernhard Mehl, CEO Kisi. “The study showcases the cities that give residents the best access to high quality mental healthcare, as well as those where employees are able and encouraged to take the most vacation days. We hope cities lagging behind in these areas can find inspiration from the index leaders.” 

Kisi acknowledged that people’s work-life balance is impacted by their financial security, and that times are tough.

“High rates of inflation could hit the ability of employees to cope with work-related stress,” said Mehl. “With this in mind, companies and governments must pay more attention to the needs of employees by being more flexible and attentive to their needs, whether by banning overtime, encouraging employees not to check emails in the evening, or introducing mental health awareness vacations.”

The best cities

Liverpool was the highest ranked UK city, followed by Glasgow and London. Image: Conor Samuel

Measuring a city’s work-life balance is a tricky business and the fact that only 100 cities were assessed is one obvious flaw in the study. However, the results provided some interesting comparisons with other research.

A study that attempted to identify the best cities for mental wellbeing also had Oslo, Bern, Helsinki and Copenhagen in its top ten.

Then there was the study that ranked the best countries for social progress, with Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Canada all dominating. A pattern emerges.

The best cities for work-life balance, according to Kisi

  1. Oslo, Norway
  2. Bern, Switzerland
  3. Helsinki, Finland
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Copenhagen, Denmark
  6. Geneva, Switzerland
  7. Ottawa, Canada
  8. Sydney, Australia
  9. Stuttgart, Germany
  10. Munich, Germany
  11. Stockholm, Sweden
  12. Melbourne, Australia
  13. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  14. Tokyo, Japan
  15. Leipzig, Germany
  16. Vancouver, Canada
  17. Auckland, New Zealand
  18. Hamburg, Germany
  19. Toronto, Canada
  20. Frankfurt, Germany

Main image: Oslo, by Oliver Cole

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