These Countries Offer The Best Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance – the healthy prioritisation between one’s career and lifestyle – is becoming increasingly important for many people: Parents want flexibility so that they don’t have to neglect their family life, while many millennials are pursuing the digital nomad lifestyle in order to make travel an essential part of their lives.
Work-life balance means different things for different people. For one person it may involve being able to work from home, while for someone else it could mean fewer working hours. But, generally speaking, work-life balance is something that many of us need. After all, research from Harvard Medical School illustrates that overwork is a nightmare for our health. Those who work more than 55 hours a week have a 13% higher risk of heart attack and are 33% more likely to suffer a stroke compared to those who work 35-40 hours a week.
Around 14 million people in Britain want flexibility in their working hours or location, but only 6.2% of jobs offer it. The UK is clearly behind when it comes to work-life balance. Some countries do it much better. Here are four examples:
Many expats are drawn to Costa Rica because of the ‘pura vida’ (pure life) lifestyle, which involves living an unhurried, relaxed, simple and uncluttered life. On the other hand, living on ‘Tico Time’ (tico is the colloquial term for natives of Costa Rica) can be a cause of frustration for many expats, since it means that punctuality goes out the window.
In any case, the slow pace of life, relatively low cost of living and abundance of protected areas of natural beauty makes it an attractive location. This Central American country consistently scores highly on the Happy Planet Index, which measures wellbeing and environmental impact.
Germany is able to maintain a work-life balance without any loss in productivity. In fact, Germans work an average of 35 hours a week , get an average of 24 paid holidays and yet, compared to the UK, are more productive and earn more. This is to do with ‘working smarter’, rather than ‘working harder’. A lack of a work-life balance is detrimental to one’s mental health, which in turn leads to a loss in productivity. In short, we work harder when we’re happy.
According to the OECD Better Life Index, Denmark has a better work-life balance than any other country. As a case in point, only 2% of employees regularly work long hours (the OECD average is 13%). There are many other factors that the OECD uses to assess work-life balance. And Denmark scores well in all of these areas, including: environmental quality, civic engagement, education, earnings, wellbeing, personal security and social life.
The Danish way of life includes a high degree of flexibility at work. Employees can decide when to start their working day, finish work at 4pm and have the option of working from home. In addition, there is a minimum 5 weeks’ paid holiday for all workers, and the Danish welfare system – which offers a full year of paid maternity leave and subsidized childcare – means that one’s career and family life can be properly balanced.
Sweden has been named the best country in the world to move to and raise children. According to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, a healthy lifestyle was regarded as a crucial factor in Sweden’s high ranking, with 69% of expat parents reporting that their children’s health and wellbeing had improved since moving to Sweden. One expat said that the “work-life balance is really hard to beat”, since it allows her to spend more time with her kids, as well as learn Swedish. There are many other factors which make Sweden a family-friendly country.
The evidence speaks for itself. Countries which promote and maintain work-life balance have more productive and fulfilled employees. So whether you’re thinking of becoming an expat, a remote worker or trying to decide what kind of company to work for, it’s worth paying special attention to the degree of flexibility on offer.