Cities for the Best Work-Life Balance 2019

By comparing data on work intensity, institutional support, legislation, and livability, study reveals a ranking of cities based on their success in promoting work-life balance to their citizens

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As keyless security experts, we know first-hand at Kisi how much of a difference it makes to work smarter rather than harder. Whether in or out of the office, we understand the value of time and believe that dedicating too much of it to your job interferes with life outside of work, and vice-versa. To explore this topic further, we conducted a study determining the cities whose residents have the most well-rounded work-life balance, in terms not only of work intensity, but also their livability and the well-being and rights of their inhabitants.

This index is not designed to be a city livability 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 fulfillment of residents’ lives by improving the aspects of life that help relieve work-related stress and intensity. To begin the study, a shortlist of in-demand metropolises worldwide with sufficient, reliable, and relevant datasets were selected. Forty cities were finalized to include those known for attracting professionals and families for their work opportunities and diverse lifestyle offerings. As the first installment of a continuous index, we aim to expand this study by including a larger selection of cities in future iterations as data becomes more widely available.

Firstly, we assessed each city’s overall work-life score, based on a series of factors related to the amount of time a person dedicates to their job—such as total working hours, commuting, and vacation days taken. Next, we wanted to find out to what extent residents receive equal treatment, evaluating their access to state-funded health and welfare programs, as well as institutional support for gender equality and friendliness toward the LGBT+ community. We then determined each city’s livability score by examining citizens’ overall happiness, safety, and access to wellness and leisure venues—allowing us to assess whether their residents can enjoy their environment after office hours.

The result is an index of 20 factors determining the work-life balance of 40 cities worldwide, recognizing those who encourage a healthy balance both directly and indirectly through policies and urban infrastructure.

Top Cities in the Ranking for Work-Life Balance

1: Helsinki
2: Munich
3: Oslo
4: Hamburg
5: Stockholm

Top Overworked Cities in the Ranking

1: Tokyo
2: Singapore
3: Washington
4: Kuala Lumpur
5: Houston

2019 Work–Life Balance Index

The final ranking, from highest to lowest, reveals the health of a city’s work-life balance. Each individual column is filterable, and the full methodology explaining how each factor was evaluated is at the bottom of the page.


The Best Cities for Work-Life Balance 2019 assesses a city’s implementation of smarter working policies and their capacity to simultaneously equip residents with the ability to enjoy their leisure time.

City Selection

A shortlist of in-demand metropolises worldwide with sufficient, reliable, and relevant datasets were selected. 40 cities were then finalized, including 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.

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

Factors and Scoring

The study focuses on three broad categories with the following factors outlined below which make a city successful at achieving a well-rounded work-life balance:

  • Work Intensity Score: Arrival Time AM, Hours Worked/Week, ≥ 48 Hours of Work/Week (%), Minimum Vacations Offered, Vacations Taken, Unemployment (%), Paid Maternal and Parental leave (days), Commuting (one-way, minutes)
  • Society & Institutions Score: Social Spending (% of GDP), Healthcare Score, Access to Mental Healthcare Score, Gender Equality Score, LGBT Equality Score
  • City Livability Score: Safety Score, Happiness Score, City Stress Score, Outdoor Spaces Score, Air Pollutants (µg/m3), Wellness & Fitness Score, Leisure Score

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.

For the total score, 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. On the other end of the spectrum, a score of 1 indicates that the city performs the poorest in comparison to the other cities in the study. However, this does not necessarily mean that the city has a poor work-life balance in the greater global context.

The data collected was then analyzed for each factor, resulting in a weighted average to create a final score for each category. This was then aggregated into a final work-life balance score for each city. The scores for each category at a city-level (Work Intensity Score, Society & Institutions Score, City Livability Score) can be provided upon request.

The final score was determined by calculating the sum of the weighted average score of the indicators under the “Society & institutions” section and the weighted average score of the “City Livability” factors. This sum was then subtracted by the weighted average score of the factors under the “Work Intensity” category.

Work-Life Balance Score =

[WEIGHTED AVERAGE(City Livability factor scores)  + WEIGHTED AVERAGE(Society & institutions factor scores)] - WEIGHTED AVERAGE(Work Intensity factor scores)

Work-Life Score

Arrival Time (AM)

  • The typical time employees arrive to work. This was determined by collecting over 5,000,000 data entries of the various times in which doors were unlocked to enter workplaces serviced by Kisi.
  • Source: internal Kisi data

Hours Worked per Week

  • The average number of hours a full-time employee works per working week. Employed persons include individuals undertaking full-time work as their main job. An employee is considered to work full-time if he or she works for 30 hours a week or more in the US, and 35 hours or more per week for all other cities. The latest available city-level data was used where available, otherwise the most recent country-level data was taken.
  • Sources: OECD, International Labour Organisation, Eurostat, official local sources

≥ 48 Hours of Work/Week (%)

  • The percentage of full-time employees working more than 48 hours per working week. For non-US cities, country-level data was used to evaluate the average working hours per week. For US cities, average number of hours of work was incorporated into the country-level data to approximate percentages on a city-level.
  • Source: International Labour Organisation

Minimum Vacations Offered

  • The minimum number of compensated vacation days an employee is legally entitled to after at least one year of service. Data was used at a national level for a full-time, five-day workweek (excluding public holidays). Due to the absence of both federal and state-level regulations on paid vacations in the United States, the average amount of paid holidays an employee receives from their employer after their first year of service (10 days per annum).
  • Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Labour Organization, local government websites, other sources

Vacations Taken

  • The average number of paid vacation days offered to employees which are used. This section uses city-level data where available. Data was calculated by subtracting the national average of vacation days received by the percentage of unused vacation days for each city. The percentage of unused vacation days in the US was sourced at a state-level. For non-US cities, country-level data was used, with estimates based on sub-regional averages if data was unavailable.
  • Sources: Expedia, US Travel Association, UBS

Unemployment (%)

  • Unemployment at a local level. Unemployment refers to the percentage of the workforce that is able to and looking for work. The annual rate of unemployment for 2018 was used at a metropolitan-level where possible. If unavailable, sub-national data was used.
  • Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Eurostat, government statistical departments

Paid Maternal and Parental Leave

  • The number of paid family leave days from work afforded to employees by law. The sum is comprised of the legislated number of days for paid maternal and parental leave, and reflects the number of days compensated, regardless of benefits provided or level of compensation.
  • Sources: UNdata, OECD employment statistics, World Economic Forum 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, official local government websites.

Commuting in Minutes

  • The average amount of time spent traveling to work, one-way within a city. Data is based on self-reported times gathered through surveys, and includes the mean travel time to work for all forms of transport.
  • Sources: US Census Bureau, Eurostat, Numbeo‍

Society & Institutions Score

Social Spending (% of GDP)

  • The latest available figure of social expenditure as a percentage of national GDP by the government.
  • Sources: OECD, World Bank, Eurostat, local government websites, and other websites

Healthcare Score

  • The accessibility to quality healthcare services for residents. The healthcare score relies on country-level data from the Health Access and Quality (HAQ) Index, and includes data on healthcare costs, accessibility and outcomes. For US cities, state-level data was used from the HAQ Index.
  • Sources: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Economist Intelligence Unit, Wallethub

Access to Mental Healthcare Score

  • The level of mental health support services available to residents. The score is a combination of the percentage of government expenditure on mental health care, the size of the workforce per capita, and the Health Access and Quality (HAQ) Index score. Country-level data was used for non-US cities.
  • Sources: WHO Mental Health Atlas, OECD, The Dartmouth Institute, Mental Health America, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

Gender Equality Score

  • The extent of gender parity measured as a score. This value is based on data relating to the difference in economic opportunity and participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment between men and women. City-level data was used for US cities, with country-level data used for non-US cities.
  • Source: World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, Wallethub Best States for Women’s Rights

LGBT+ Equality Score

  • How progressive a city is in relation to LGBT+ equality at a social and legislative level. The score was calculated by looking at several key areas, including equal rights, anti-discrimination safeguards, level of safety and friendliness to the LGBT+ community.
  • Sources: Spartacus Gay Travel Index (emphasis is placed on factors related to anti-discrimination laws and violence), Nestpick’s Best Cities for LGBT, Gallup surveys

City Livability Score

Safety Score

  • The degree of personal safety experienced by residents. The safety score combines data on violent crime rates, political violence, traffic deaths and perceived criminality.
  • Sources: 2018 Social Progress Index, Economist Intelligence Unit, Global Residence Index, FBI, Numbeo, other sources.

Happiness Score

  • The average perceived level of happiness at a national level. The score is calculated from survey responses evaluating the perceived happiness with one’s own life, as well as the degree of positive and negative effects a respondent experiences.
  • Sources: World Happiness Report, World Values Survey

City Stress Score

  • The degree to which a city is burdened by stress-inducing factors. The score is based on data on a city’s population density, transport and infrastructure, climate, and local economy.
  • Sources: WalletHub 2016 Stressed Cities, Zipjet 2017 Stressful Cities Ranking

Outdoor Spaces Score

  • The amount of land used for public recreational green and park spaces in a city. This score is determined by the percentage of space allocated for parks, as well as data on the overall percentage of green space in cities.
  • Sources: Eurostat, World Cities Culture Forum, The Trust for Public Land, other sources

Air Pollutants (µg/m3)

  • The mean annual population exposure to PM2.5 (micrograms per cubic metre). PM2.5 is a fine pollutant emitted during the combustion of solid and liquid fuels. Exposure to increased levels of the pollutant is understood to cause negative public health impacts.
  • Sources: WHO, OECD

Wellness & Fitness Score

  • The measure of a population’s overall wellness and fitness in a city. The score combines the national life expectancy at birth, the obesity rate, and in the case of US cities, the number of fitness studios.
  • Sources: WHO, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, BestPlaces’ Healthiest Cities Ranking, State of Obesity

Leisure Score

  • The vibrancy and variety of cultural and lifestyle offerings in a city. The score combines cultural city rankings, the number of persons employed in the cultural and creative industries, and the amount of leisure activities available, such as the number of restaurants, parks, shops, entertainment and nightlife venues. Cities with an exceptional number of cultural offerings were given supplementary points.
  • Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, EU Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor, World Cities Culture Forum, Trip Advisor, Caterwings

About Kisi: Founded in 2012 in Brooklyn, Kisi is a cloud-based keyless access control system providing mobile-first security solutions. Businesses of every size and industry use Kisi's hardware and software to secure their spaces, streamline operations and build a vibrant office culture.

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