10 Best Work-Life Balance Countries
Achieving a harmonious work-life balance became more challenging than ever, especially in the fast-paced world of remote work, the gig economy, and other lifestyle-changing trends.
As many of us find ourselves caught between never-ending work demands and personal well-being, prioritising personal wellness can help you increase workplace productivity and overall job performance.
One of the greatest factors that impact how individuals separate personal well-being from professional endeavours is the country and cultural perceptions. Luckily, a good work-life balance in some countries is not only easily achievable but also highly encouraged and celebrated.
In this blog, we will explore the top 10 countries and regions that offer the best work-life balance, so keep reading.
Defining work-life balance
Work-life balance is a state where an individual successfully handles the demands of their job and personal life. It’s about maintaining stability, ensuring that work doesn’t overpower personal life, and vice versa.
Achieving a good work-life balance involves efficient management of your time and energy, ultimately leading to increased well-being, reduced stress, and better job performance.
Importance of choosing the best work-life balance countries
Choosing a country that promotes a good work-life balance can significantly impact your quality of life and overall well-being. Below are some of the reasons why the choice of country matters:
- Health and well-being – Excessive work hours and prioritising work over personal wellness can lead to burnout, stress, and even health issues. Choosing a country that promotes balance between work and personal life can help maintain a healthier lifestyle.
- Better quality of life – A balanced work-life lifestyle allows you to pursue activities that bring you joy and satisfaction, engage in hobbies, and spend more time with family and friends. This contributes to overall higher quality of life.
- Increased productivity – Countries that promote strong work-life balance are characterised by a more productive workforce. This comes as no surprise, as having time to relax and rest leads to being more efficient and productive.
- Economic prosperity – Countries known for a good work-life balance tend to have lower unemployment rates and economic prosperity due to promoting more attractive work conditions and environments.
Indicators of good work-life balance in a country
Several indicators can help understand how well a country manages the work-life balance. In this section below, we’ll explore the most significant ones.
1. Work culture and average working hours
A work culture that values productivity without glorifying overwork leads to a better perception of work and better work-life balance in general. Luckily, many countries promote work cultures that prioritise getting the job done efficiently instead of the number of hours worked.
The number of work hours is also an important indicator of the country’s work-life balance. Countries with shorter working hours offer a better work-life balance, as employees have more time to prioritise leisure, family, and personal time.
2. Social and family life
Cultures prioritising social and family life make it easier for individuals to balance their personal lives and professional responsibilities. This creates a nurturing atmosphere that values both personal happiness and professional efficiency and, as a result, positively impacts both of these aspects.
3. Government initiatives
Government initiatives, such as flexible work arrangements, parental leave, healthcare policies, and others, can significantly impact the ability to balance work and life. In addition, access to high-quality public services, such as healthcare and education, can reduce the burdens of daily life and make it easier for individuals to focus on personal well-being.
10 Best work-life balance countries
We have already established that some countries promote and even celebrate a strong work-life balance. In this section, we list and explore the best work-life balance countries and their engagement in helping individuals achieve harmony.
1. The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is among the top 10 best work-life balance countries for a number of reasons.
Starting from the country’s business culture, many UK employers embrace flexible work arrangements and remote work, enabling employees to manage their work and personal responsibilities better.
In addition, the UK’s labour laws also promote and protect employees’ rights and well-being. With entitlements such as 28 days of paid annual leave, 52 weeks of paid maternity leave, and 2 weeks of paid paternity leave, individuals employed in the UK enjoy great support in establishing personal wellness, including family and social life.
Finally, British culture has a rich history of promoting hobbies such as sports and outdoor activities, which adds great value to personal time and leisure.
Sweden is also a country where work-life balance is highly supported. The country’s government also contributes to promoting work-life balance with generous policies regarding paid leave and other employee benefits.
Swedish employees are entitled to 25 days of paid annual leave, 480 days of paid parental leave, and minimised working hours for parents with children younger than the age of 8. The standard work week in Sweden consists of 40 hours per week, allowing individuals more personal time and leisure activities.
The Swedish culture also places a strong emphasis on workplace equality. Therefore, both men and women share equal family and work responsibilities, contributing to a healthier work-life balance for everyone.
Generally, Sweden is consistently ranked low in global stress surveys, which indicates a good work-life balance. Swedish citizens experience less work-related stress and, therefore, are able to maintain a higher quality of life.
Norway is among the countries with the highest standard of living in the world, providing access to free education and healthcare for residents. Except for alleviating the financial pressure associated with personal well-being, Norway’s community service system is also inclined towards promoting a better work-life balance.
Employees in Norway enjoy generous paid leave entitlements, including 25 days of paid annual leave and 1 year of parental leave for each parent and each childbirth, promoting a better social and family life and overall work-life balance.
Finally, the Norwegian culture is also inclined towards promoting equality and inclusive work environments, which leads to higher job satisfaction and support in improving personal wellness.
Similar to the other countries in the Scandinavian area, Denmark is also renowned for its exceptional work-life balance.
Denmark is a country with a reasonable 37.5 working hours per week, which is lower than the global average. Shorter working hours help individuals strike a balance between work and personal life, reduce stress, and enhance their overall well-being.
Employees in Denmark are entitled to 25 days of paid annual leave, as well as many other paid leave categories, such as maternity/paternity leave, parental leave, bereavement leave, marriage leave, and military leave.
Besides generous paid leave policies, Denmark also promotes equality and well-being in the workplace and encourages flexible work arrangements as a crucial part of individuals’ work-life balance.
Spain is one of the countries that puts special emphasis on leisure, with daily siestas, extended evenings, and vibrant social activities.
The typical workday in Spain is split into two halves, with siesta time in between. Hence, there’s a crucial understanding of the importance of taking breaks and enjoying leisure time, which contributes to a strong work-life balance.
Spanish employees also receive 30 days of paid annual leave, in addition to other paid leave categories such as maternity/paternity leave, parental leave, marriage leave, bereavement leave, and family care leave.
Except for the emphasis on promoting wellness apart from work, the Spanish approach to work often involves integrating personal and professional lives. With family gatherings, meals, and celebrations being integral to daily life, Spain is among the top 10 countries offering the best work-life balance.
6. The Netherlands
Working in the Netherlands is often associated with a solid work-life balance for a few reasons.
Starting from the standard work week in the country, Dutch employees work 7 to 8 hours per day, or 36 to 40 hours per week in total. Employees are also entitled to a minimum of 20 days of annual leave, as well as other leave categories such as maternity/paternity leave, parental leave, care leave, and others.
The Dutch work culture also promotes flexible work options and remote work, which allows employees to adapt their work schedules to align better with their personal lives.
In general, Dutch employees report high levels of job satisfaction, suggesting that the country’s work culture promotes well-being and personal fulfilment.
With a short work week of 35 hours, France also holds a reputation as a country that considers employees’ well-being and promotes establishing a healthy work-life balance.
Besides the 35-hour work week, employees in France are entitled to many paid leave categories, including maternity/paternity leave, parental leave, adoption leave, and bereavement leave. The annual leave in the country is a minimum of 5 weeks for every employee who passes a probationary period of 1 month.
France is also known as a country that puts a strong emphasis on quality of life. The French society fosters a culture of frequent festivals, traditions, cultural events, outdoor activities, and an open attitude towards mental health and discussing work-related stress and pressure.
Combined with the country’s diverse landscape and countryside, it comes as no surprise that French residents foster a culture of outdoor activities, relaxation, and leisure.
Austria is also on the list of the 10 best work-life balance countries with strict regulations regarding working time and ensuring employee well-being.
First of all, Austria is one of the European countries with the best-developed social welfare systems, including healthcare and high-quality education. This alleviates the financial pressure on residents and allows them to focus on personal well-being.
Furthermore, Austrian employers are obliged to provide progressive paid annual leave from 5 to 6 weeks, depending on the time of service.
Employees in the country also enjoy other paid entitlements, including 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, 4 weeks of paid paternity leave, parental leave, and other categories. Such parental leave policies have the purpose of promoting gender equality and allowing both parents to be actively involved in family-related activities while maintaining their careers.
By offering a generous number of vacation days, public holidays, leave policies and flexible work arrangements, Austrian residents are empowered to adapt their work schedules, promote personal life and leisure activities, and, therefore, achieve a harmonious work-life balance and well-being.
Romania is among the countries that nurture a strong sense of community and, hence, promote a healthy work-life balance.
Starting from paid leave entitlements, employees in Romania enjoy 22 paid days off in a year, as well as other paid leave categories such as maternity/paternity leave, parental leave, bereavement leave, and others.
While Romania is a country that faces economic issues, it’s also increasingly becoming a place where individuals and employers are recognising the importance of work-life balance. With the adoption of the remote work culture and flexible work arrangements, Romanian employees are enjoying the ability to balance work and personal life better.
Last but not least, Brazil is among the South American countries that promote a strong work-life balance for a couple of reasons.
First of all, Brazil’s vibrant culture involves a lot of festivals, celebrations, and beautiful natural landscapes, encouraging individuals to enjoy leisure time. Brazil’s culture also involves spending time with family and friends, making social connections, and maintaining strong relationships, which reduces feelings of isolation and stress and contributes to a better work-life balance.
Besides a culture that promotes leisure and social activities, employees in Brazil are entitled to at least 30 days of paid annual leave and other paid categories, including maternity/paternity leave, marriage leave, and family care leave.
Finally, Brazil is also among the countries that are adopting flexible work arrangements and the concept of remote work, which highly impacts employees’ work-life balance and the ability to schedule work in order to align it with personal life.
Europe: Top 5 countries with the best work-life balance
Europe, as a region, is widely regarded for its positive work culture and harmonious work-life balance in general.
Starting from the European Union’s legislation, such as the EU Work-Life Balance Directive and the European Pillar of Social Rights, EU member states are obliged to foster equal opportunities and well-being.
Besides fostering transparency and protection for employees, the European region is characterised by great cultural diversity, rich history, and beautiful landscapes, offering abundant opportunities for embracing remote work, flexible work arrangements, and achieving better work-life balance.
Therefore, below is a list of the top 5 countries with the best work-life balance in the European region:
- The Netherlands
Asia: Top 5 countries with the best work-life balance
Asia is a continent known for its incredible cultural diversity and traditions, unique culinary specialities, historical landmarks, modern cities, and wide range of natural landscapes. In addition, Asia is also home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, attracting a lot of foreign investors who want to explore business opportunities in the region.
When it comes to nurturing work-life balance, many Asian cultures put a strong emphasis on hard work and dedication to careers. However, governments have been introducing policies and laws to improve work-life balance and protect workers’ well-being, especially with the popularity of remote work, digital nomadism, and other growing trends.
Here are the top 5 countries with the best work-life balance in Asia:
- United Arab Emirates
Africa: Top 5 countries with the best work-life balance
African cultures put a strong emphasis on community, family, leisure time and traditional lifestyle values. On the other hand, many African countries are embracing entrepreneurship, freelancing and self-employment, and digital nomadism, positively impacting the overall work-life balance of the region.
As much as work-life balance in Africa varies from one country to another, many governments are adopting policies and laws regarding working hours, paid leave, and public holidays to protect employees’ rights and promote their well-being.
Below, we list the top 5 African countries with the best work-life balance.
- South Africa
South America: Top 5 countries with the best work-life balance
The work-life balance in South America varies widely, being influenced by a plethora of factors such as cultural norms, economic development, and government policies.
For instance, many South American cultures emphasise the importance of family, community, and social connections, leading to spending more time with family and participating in leisure activities. On the other hand, some countries may be more challenged in this regard due to factors such as political instability, economic disparities, and access to quality public services such as education and healthcare.
Moreover, below, we’re presenting the 5 countries in South America that are nurturing the best work-life balance in the region:
North America: Top 5 countries with the best work-life balance
Similar to other continents, North America’s work-life balance varies, depending on specific countries. However, most of the countries in this region are characterised by high standards of living, well-established labour laws, access to quality education and healthcare, and labour unions negotiating better employment conditions, contributing to a strong work-life balance.
Also, many North American cultures put a strong emphasis on a good quality of life, including spending time with family, pursuing hobbies, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance in general.
Here is a list of the top 5 countries with good work-life balance in North America.
- Costa Rica
- The United States
Top 10 most hardworking countries
Working in the era of revolutionising trends such as remote work, gig economy, and flexible work arrangements, many countries are embracing the idea of promoting better work-life balance for employees. Therefore, the concept of “hardworking countries” can be rather subjective and difficult to measure.
For instance, there’s an interesting observation that certain countries perform well in regional or continental work-life balance rankings, yet their global rankings are considerably low. This is mainly impacted by factors such as cultural norms and differences, economic disparities between countries, differences in government policies, as well as differences in regional demographics such as distribution of industries, population density, urbanisation, and others.
Keep reading the list of the top 10 hardworking countries on a global level:
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- The United States
Countries with the most public holidays
The number of public holidays has a significant impact on shaping the work-life balance of a country. Public holidays reflect cultural values and provide opportunities for relaxation, leisure, and spending time with family or involvement in social activities.
Hence, in this section, we’re listing some of the countries in the world with the most public holidays:
- Sri Lanka
To sum up
Achieving a harmonious work-life balance is an essential pursuit in today’s fast-paced world of remote work and the gig economy. Even though the concept of work-life balance can be subjective, many countries and regions are not only making work-life balance easily achievable but also actively encouraging and celebrating.
Prioritising work-life balance is crucial, as it enhances workplace productivity and overall well-being, resulting in a better quality of life.