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Europe's Top Countries for a Work Life Balance

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

work life balanceHave you ever felt like you don’t get any free time in your working day? Do the hours feel too long and your chance to relax with your family and friends too short? Maybe you should consider moving to Scandinavia.


The results of a new study from TotallyMoney show that Denmark and Sweden are the top countries for getting a good work/life balance – with comparatively few hours of work each week, a good number of bank holidays and holiday allowance, and plenty of time dedicated to leisure each day.

It looks like it’s working, too – both countries are at the top end of the scale for happiness, with Denmark proving that a good balance is key to being satisfied with life as the top scorer in the research.

Smoothing Out the Daily Grind

While many of the top countries were more northern (as colder countries with longer evenings often tend to legislate better work/life balances in order to prevent widespread a negative influence from the lack of sun), there were a couple of warmer southern European countries in the top ten. Spain was just pushed out of the top five to sixth position – these were the most successful countries:

1.     Denmark – The northern country was the top scorer for happiness and fared exceedingly well on average salary against cost of living, time devoted to leisure, and hours worked.

2.     Sweden – Sweden scored similarly to Denmark, but had a much higher amount of average time worked in a week – by 3.5 hours! They did, however, have three more bank holidays a year.

3.     The Netherlands – The Netherlands topped the results for their low number of hours worked in a week, averaging only 30.3 in total. They did, however, suffer a lack of bank holidays, with only 9 in a year, the second lowest in all of the countries studied.

4.     Finland – Finland’s low productivity meant that although they have one of the better results for working hours (though more than other countries in the area), their commitment to the work itself means they’re giving almost too much focus to their leisure to achieve a good balance.

5.     France – The most southern city to enter the top five, France’s strong point was their hours dedicated to leisure and personal care each day – 16.4 (including sleep), the highest across all the research. Their happiness index score was limited compared to the other countries at the top end of the scoring, however.

work life balance europe infographic

United Kingdom

While far from the lowest scoring on the research (a position which went to Turkey), the UK could have fared better. Holding the position of 13th of 24, there was a comparatively low number of bank holidays – indeed, the lowest in the research.

Conversely, however, the UK holiday allowance of 28 days was the second highest in the research, falling behind only Spain, which had 30.

Productivity was also limited, less than that of France or Ireland, while remaining higher than Spain and Iceland, both of which proved to have a better balance overall. The UK also had a 13th position on happiness, winning out over many other major European powers, including France, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Portugal fell to the bottom of the list, perhaps due to their low salary compared to their high cost of living, for which they also scored the poorest.

“It’s important whatever business you’re in to make sure you get some downtime, for personal time and for spending time with family,” said Joe Gardiner, TotallyMoney.com’s Head of Brand and Communications, “But it looks like the best place to go to really get a balance is northern Europe.”

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