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Best Cities for Work-Life Balance 2019

By David Saunders, Health Editor

Mobile access technology company Kisi has released a study examining which cities around the world promote the most holistic work-life balance.

With the goal of enhancing an individual’s personal and professional life through technological innovation, Kisi has endeavored to find out which coveted metropolises worldwide are meeting their residents’ lifestyle demands to make their city a more attractive place overall to work and live.

In response to research on office culture, which addresses the needs of the modern employee, this study aims to go beyond generic metrics such as cost of living, nightlife and tourist attractions. Using data relating to work intensity, social well-being, and livability to analyze the interplay between work and life, the index assesses how successful residents are at achieving a healthy work-life balance in 40 cities around the world.

This index is not designed to be a city liveability index, nor is it intended to highlight the best cities to work in. Instead, it aims to be a guideline for cities to benchmark their ability to support the fulfilment of residents’ lives by improving the aspects of life that help relieve work-related stress and intensity.

With an ever-increasing burnout rate worldwide, self-care and time management are becoming higher priorities.

This study was conducted in the hope that it will bring awareness to the multiple ways in which cities and countries can contribute to the overall happiness and well-being of the workforce.

How the study was conducted:

To begin the study, a shortlist of in-demand metropolises worldwide with sufficient, reliable, and relevant datasets were selected. 40 cities were finalised to include those known for attracting professionals and families for their work opportunities and diverse lifestyle offerings.

As the first installation of a continuous study, this index aims to include a larger selection of cities in future iterations as data becomes more widely available.

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Each city’s overall work-life score was evaluated based on a series of factors related to the amount of time a person dedicates to their job—such as total working hours, commuting, vacation days taken, and paid maternal leave.

Next, Kisi researchers measured the extent to which different types of individuals in a city receive equal treatment. As a result, a person’s level of parity was evaluated by their accessibility to state-funded health and welfare programs, as well as their gender and LGBT+ equality score.

Each city’s overall liveability score was then determined through a compilation of indicators, as it must facilitate its residents’ lifestyle patterns to be a desirable place to live. Finally, Kisi measured the well-being of each city’s workers through their overall happiness and freedom, allowing researchers to determine whether residents can enjoy their surrounding environment after office hours.

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The result is an index encompassing 20 factors determining the top 40 metropolises around the world who recognize the importance of a work-life balance, and encourage it both directly and indirectly through policies and urban infrastructure.

Please find the complete methodology and full data set on the results page:

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Please note that where scores are out of 100 — the higher the score, the better — with the exception of the City Stress Score, where the lower the score, the lower the level of stress, indicating that the city is less stressful. A value of 100 does not mean a city is perfect in terms of work-life balance and has zero room for improvement, rather, it means that the city has the healthiest work-life balance out of all the cities in the index.

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Key Findings

  • Workers in Washington D.C. arrive to work at the latest time (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 percent 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.

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  • 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.

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