Helsinki leads the world in work-life balance

Finland has added yet another badge to its long list of highly ranked measures of wellness as its capital city Helsinki tops the world's best city for work-life balance against 40 cities worldwide.


A new study from technology business Kisi has compared data on a range of factors to analyze the interplay between work and life such as livability, work intensity, institutional support, and legislation to rank cities based on their success in promoting work-life balance to citizens. Kisi is a New York-based provider of cloud-based access control systems.


Ten best cities for work-life balance

1. Helsinki

2. Munich

3. Oslo

4. Hamburg

5. Stockholm

6. Berlin

7. Zurich

8. Barcelona

9. Paris

10. Vancouver


The study of how well these 40 cities worldwide have succeeded aims to promote the work-life balance and, consequently, the quality of life of their residents. It aims to recognize the cities that encourage a healthy work-life balance through policies and urban infrastructure and to be a guideline for cities to benchmark their ability to support and improve the quality of life and relieve the work-related stress in some aspects.


The cities for its analysis were selected based on the availability of reliable data and the reputation for attracting professionals and families with work opportunities and lifestyle offerings. Using the data, the index has assessed how successful the residents are at achieving a healthy work-life balance. Helsinki, Munich, and Oslo are the three best ranked cities while the cities with the worst work-life balance are Tokyo, Singapore, and Washington DC.


Five worst cities for work-life balance

1. Tokyo

2. Singapore

3. Washington DC

4. Kuala Lumpur

5. Houston


Each city’s overall work-life score was evaluated and determined through a compilation of indicators related to the residents' lifestyle patterns, such as amount of time a person dedicates to their job – total working hours, commuting, vacation days taken, and paid maternal leave – and their overall happiness and freedom, whether residents can enjoy their surrounding environment after office hours.

In an age where people have failed the aspect of enhancing everyday lives, Kisi CEO Bernhard Mehl said that the study hopes to highlight the need for more research to optimize the wellbeing of citizens in order to counter the psychological and economic costs of workplace stress.

Having the highest happiness score was one of the factors that put Helsinki in top spot

Helsinki received the highest score for happiness, at 100, minimum length of available vacation (30 days), and the combined length of paid maternal and paternal leaves (1,127 days). It also ranked in the top five in terms of social spending, gender equality, outdoor spaces, access to mental health services, average number of hours worked per week (40.2) and length of one-way commute (26 minutes).


The Finnish capital ranked outside the top 10 in LGBT+ friendliness (13th) and fitness and wellness (16th), and close to the bottom in unemployment (36th) and leisure opportunities (38th). Helsinki also offers the highest number of maternal and parental leave days​, at 1,127, followed by Budapest and Oslo.


Another reason so many companies in Finland support flexible working is that Finns have long had a focus on work-life balance. Just 4% of employees regularly work 50 hours a week or more, well below the average across the western world, according to OECD figures.

How much holiday are people entitled to in the best and worst cities? Helsinki and Paris offer the highest minimum number of holiday days, at 30 days per year, while Hong Kong and Singapore offer the least, at seven days per year.


Other interesting findings:

  • Citizens in Oslo work the least number of hours per week, at 38.9, followed by Sydney and Melbourne

  • Workers in Barcelona take the highest number of vacation days, at 30.5, followed by Paris and Munich whereas cities with the least are ​San Francisco​ (9.7 days)​, San Diego ​(9.7 days)​, Washington DC ​(9.4 days)​ and ​Los Angeles ​(9.1 days)

  • Cleveland workers commute to work for the shortest amount of time, at 22.2 minutes, followed by Las Vegas and Portland

  • 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

  • Munich has the lowest stressful city score, indicating the lowest levels of stress, at 15.8, followed by Sydney and Hamburg

  • Workers in Washington DC arrive to work at the latest time​ (10.30 am) followed by Hong Kong, Houston and Berlin

  • 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 and 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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