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
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
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)
Arrival Time (AM)
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
Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Labour
Organization, local government websites, other sources
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Sources: WalletHub 2016 Stressed Cities, Zipjet 2017 Stressful
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
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
Sources: WHO, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, BestPlaces’
Healthiest Cities Ranking, State of Obesity
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,
About Kisi: Founded in 2012 in Brooklyn, Kisi is a cloud-based keyless access control system providing mobile-first security
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