Are these the top 10 cities in the world offering the best work-life balance?

In a post-COVID-19 world, as remote and hybrid working continues to become more prevalent, employees’ well-being and comfort have never been more prioritised.

So much so that according to a recent study by Forbes Advisor, over half (54 per cent) of British workers would accept a lower-paid job in exchange for a better work-life balance.

But which cities have the best work-life balance? The answer overwhelmingly lies in Europe, as revealed by this year’s Forbes Work-Life Balance Index.

Forbes Advisor reviewed 128 major cities across the globe, awarding each a score out of 100, where the higher the score the better the work-life balance.

The study ranked the cities based on 10 different factors, including happiness, gender equality, average working hours, minimum legal annual leave, and sunlight hours.

European cities, specifically those in Scandinavian countries, topped the list, mainly thanks to excellent parental leave policies, increased paid days off, and flexible working arrangements.

Here’s a look at the top 10 best cities in the world for a work-life balance:

10. Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, offers a low cost of living and a low property price-to-income ratio compared to other major UK cities. Companies in the city further offer generous maternity leave policies. 

Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, ranks 10th in the 2023 work-life balance indexCanva

9. Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is the first UK city to rank in the top 10 for work-life balance. In addition to its stunning natural beauty, the Scottish capital offers a generous annual leave policy of 28 days and a maternity leave policy of minimum of 39 weeks’ pay.

Edinburgh is the first UK city to rank in the top 10 for work-life balanceCanva

8. Vienna, Austria

Thanks to its extensive range of green spaces and free healthcare and education, Vienna, Austria’s capital, is an ideal place to live for a better work-life balance.

Unemployment rates in the city are as low as 2.3 per cent and employees tend to benefit from an average of five weeks of annual leave.

Vienna, Austria’s capital, is an ideal place to live for a better work-life balanceCanva

7. Reykjavik, Iceland

Thanks to the Icelandic government’s emphasis on a healthy work-life balance, many companies in the capital have adopted flexible working arrangements with 46 per cent of remote and hybrid jobs advertised. Additionally, employees are entitled to 24 days of annual leave and 12 public holidays.

Reykjavik, IcelandCanva

6. Gothenburg, Sweden

Working and living in Gothenburg means a focus on employees’ welfare; workers are offered 25 days of annual leave and flexible working arrangements with 42 per cent of job vacancies advertising remote or hybrid working options.

Gothenburg cityscapeCanva

5. Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland is the only non-European city to rank among the top 10 on the Work-Life Balance Index.

Employees in New Zealand’s biggest city are entitled to an average 26.3-hour working week, four weeks of paid leave and 11 public holiday days per year.

Auckland’s growing economy provides ample employment opportunities across multiple sectors with a low unemployment rate (3.2 per cent).

Auckland is the only non-European city to rank among the top 10 on the Work-Life Balance IndexCanva

4. Oslo, Norway

Despite being an expensive city, Oslo’s high standards of living and high wages make it one of the best cities to work and live in.

Many Oslo companies provide flexible working hours, enabling employees to manage work and personal schedules.

Oslo town hall from the seaCanva

3. Stockholm, Sweden

Full-time employees in Stockholm receive a minimum of 25 days of annual leave, providing ample leisure time. Flexible work arrangements are prevalent, with nearly half (46 per cent) of jobs advertising hybrid or remote work options.

Moreover, employers offer generous parental leave policies, with parents entitled to up to 480 days of paid leave and each parent offered 240 days.

Stockholm, SwedenCanva

2. Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki takes second place among the best cities to live and work in, thanks to an emphasis on community and a healthy lifestyle, things that have contributed to Finland taking the top spot on the World Happiness Index.

Companies in Helsinki offer 320 working days combined of parental leave, up to five weeks of annual leave, and flexible working arrangements, including remote work options, abiding by Finland’s social policies.

Finland ranks top of the World Happiness IndexCanva

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen tops the list of cities with the best work-life balance – and it’s little wonder. The Danish capital received high scores on several lifestyle-related aspects, including being the second happiest city in the world and the top-ranked city for gender equality as per the Gender Inequality Index.

Denmark is also renowned for its flexible working hours, a minimum of five weeks of annual leave, low unemployment rates (2.4 per cent), and a 52-week parental leave split for both parents.

Copenhagen tops the list of cities with the best work-life balanceCanva

Honourable mentions

Other cities that scored highly on the list include Amsterdam, Zurich, Prague, Sydney and Abu Dhabi. These cities offer great work-life balance, with strong economies, low unemployment rates, and generous employee benefits.

No US cities managed to secure a place in the top 50 list, with the highest-ranking city, Atlanta, coming in at 52nd globally. This significant contrast to other European countries is the result of – among many things – a lack of legally mandated paid annual leave and maternity leave for employees in the US.


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