Global study reveals the 10 best life-work balance nations

Life-work balance has changed the working world, and you might be surprised at which nations are offering people the best deal. Global employment experts Remote conducted a global index data study to determine the best nation in the world for life-work balance.

Global employment experts Remote conducted a worldwide study into life-work balance, assessing the quality of life-work balance across the world.

Remote believes the mindset of employees should flip to be life first, work second – hence the coining of the term life-work balance over the traditional phrasing of work-life balance.

“Everyone should be able to enjoy both personal fulfillment and professional success, no matter where they live,” said Job van der Voort, co-founder and CEO of Remote. “The top countries on our global life-work balance list are leading the way for a brighter future of work by embracing this philosophy and offering the infrastructure to support it.”

Key findings:

  • Europe leads the way when it comes to life-work balance, with European nations making up 6 of the top 10 countries in Remote’s study.
  • The United States is ranked a lowly 53rd in the index owing to a lack of statutory annual leave or sick pay, and the absence of a universal healthcare system.
  • Antipodean nations performed well in the study, with New Zealand taking the top spot. Workers in Australia and New Zealand are also the most generously paid.

Remote’s Global Life-Work Balance Index assesses the quality of life-work balance in the world’s top 60 GDP countries, ranking each nation out of 100. The overall score is determined through factors including minimum wage, sick leave, maternity leave, healthcare availability, public happiness, average working hours, and LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

2023 statistics show three-quarters of employees experienced burnout in their current roles. Could employers take a more proactive approach to life-work balance to address the problem? Let’s see what learnings we can glean from the best nations for life-work balance.

1. New Zealand – 79.35
The index study revealed New Zealand to be the country with the best life-work balance. Boasting a strong economy, New Zealand ranks at #1 in Remote’s list by scoring highly across several metrics, offering a generous statutory annual leave allowance (32 days), a high rate of sick pay (80%), and a government-funded universal health care system.

2. Spain – 75.55
While the idea of the traditional Spanish siesta has become something of an international stereotype, the European nation of Spain still builds a culture that encourages balance. Scoring consistently well across the board, the country is particularly generous when it comes to statutory annual leave (36 days). It also has one of the shortest working weeks on average.

3. France – 75.34
One of the largest European countries by population (c. 65 million) and with one of the highest GDPs in the world, businesses in France have a healthy attitude to life-work balance, with workers enjoying ample free time, a generous minimum wage, and 36 days of statutory annual leave per year.

4. Australia – 73.71
Known for stunning landscapes, laid-back culture, and a favorable year-round climate (with many states enjoying more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year!), Australia unsurprisingly ranks high in the life-work balance index. The country offers the highest minimum annual wage per hour of any nation, and sick leave is paid at 100% of your salary.

5. Denmark – 73.67
Considered one of the happiest nations (ranking second in the “Happiness Index” metric behind Finland), Denmark offers its workers a generous 36 days’ annual leave, 100% sick pay, and universal healthcare support. Along with Norway, it’s also considered to be Europe’s most LGBTQ+-friendly country.

6. Norway – 73.05
Norway is a nation that understands the value of life-work balance. Norwegian nationals are considered to be among the happiest people in Europe. Its workers receive 35 days of statutory annual leave and 100% sick pay. Long working weeks are rare and the country boasts a renowned government-funded healthcare system — health expenditure per head is higher in Norway than in most other countries.

7. Netherlands – 69.14
Viewed as having a modern, independent culture, the Netherlands is the second-happiest country in our top 10, and one the most supportive of LGBTQ+ rights. Though the Dutch aren’t afforded a government-backed healthcare package, and the annual leave rate is about average, there’s a generous rate of maternity pay for parents.

8. United Kingdom – 69.07
With a high-income economy and a very high human development index rating, the United Kingdom boasts the globe’s sixth-largest economy based on GDP. The country also has a healthy attitude to life-work balance, with an internationally-renowned healthcare system, a generous minimum wage, and one of the highest global rates of statutory maternity leave.

9.Canada – 67.91
Canada offers a universal healthcare package and is seen as the most LGBTQ+-friendly country in which to live and work. Remote ranked Canada as the number one international destination for working professionals due to its high quality of life, safety, and a multitude of leisure opportunities.

10. Brazil – 67.73
Brazil is the only South American country to feature in Remote’s top 10. Its high standing owes largely to its generous rate of sick and maternity pay, as well as its government-funded universal healthcare system. Brazil is a popular travel destination that also adopts a healthy attitude to work and life.

Commenting on the global life-work balance study, Amanda Day, Director of People Enablement at Remote: “We conducted our global life-work balance study to highlight the possibility for people to find a better balance that allows them to get the most out of both their personal lives and career.

“When conducting the study, it was fascinating to observe different working cultures across the globe and how each approached the concept of life-work balance. Europe dominates the top 10 alongside Oceania indicating a modern and strong work culture in these continents with emphasis on support and inclusivity. We were surprised to see the United States, one of the biggest nations by GDP, unable to break into the top 50 – which suggests there are many areas where the States can improve. We would like to see the US make big strides among our ranking factors when revisiting this study in the future.

Remote champion companies and organizations that prioritize their employees by providing them with a strong foundation for life-work balance. True life-work balance extends beyond work-from-home mandates – it actively encourages employers to take time off away from the pressures of work, advocating for a balanced life to help us thrive in all areas.

“Burnout has been a hot topic of conversation in the news and among workplace cultures. While the world of work has come a long way since embracing remote-first attitudes and flexibility, there’s still work to be done across the globe to strike a perfect balance between our personal and professional selves.”

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