Work-life balance has always been a hot topic for discussion, but it was pushed further into the spotlight after Covid-19 forced many workers and students into lockdown. As boundaries between work and home life became blurred, many struggled to maintain a healthy balance.
But what is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is the healthy division of time spent working and time devoted to your personal life. However, achieving a work-life balance is easier said than done.
This article will show you—
- How different generations and genders deal with work-life balance
- The toll an unhealthy work-life balance can take on your health
- All the ins and outs of remote working
- Different professions and the best companies for work-life balance
Table of contents:
- Work-Life Balance: Key Findings
- Importance of Work-Life Balance
- Work-Life Balance: Generational Differences
- Work-Life Balance: Gender Differences
- Health and Work-Life Balance
- Burnout Statistics
- Shifts Towards a Healthy Work-Life Balance
- Impact of Covid-19 on Work-Life Balance
- Benefits of Remote Work
- Downsides of Remote Work
- Taking Time Off
- Work-Life Balance Jobs
- Top 10 Companies with the Best Work-Life Balance
- Work-Life Balance Around the World
Let’s start with an overview—
- On average, 11% of workers around the world claimed to work over 50 hours per week (OECD)
- This converges with data from a 2016 survey stating 488 million people worldwide worked more than 55 hours per week. (WHO/ILO)
- Even back in 2014, 43% of employees struggled to manage work and home life and effectively disengage. (The Energy Project & Harvard Business Review)
- A small study also found that due to technology, 39% found it difficult to disconnect from work when at home.(First Psychology Scotland)
- But work-life balance could be worsening. A global survey found executives are reporting a 20% decrease in work-life balance from the previous year, and non-executives report a 40% decrease. (Future Forum)
- Another global survey discovered that 89% of respondents believe their work-life balance is getting worse. (Harvard Business Review)
- Since 2020, work-related stress and anxiety in the US are reportedly at an all-time high, and work-life balance is at an all-time low. (Future Forum)
Importance of Work-Life Balance
Although the stats imply work-life balance is getting worse, many also understand that healthy work-life balance plays a key role in their everyday lives.
- In 2018, 72% of US employees selected work-life balance as being a significant factor when choosing a job. (Statista)
- A small survey revealed employees rated health and family as 25% more important than other non-work factors in their work-life balance. (Environmental Research and Public Health)
- When surveying professionals in London, 30% of men and 50% of women claimed to resist working long hours and had various strategies for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. (Harvard Business Review)
- Another survey revealed 79% of employees claimed work-life balance was the reason for wanting a flexible job, and 72% said it was the most important factor when considering a new job. (FlexJobs)
As different generations enter and retire from the workforce, work habits and attitudes also shift. Despite being new to the world of work, the younger generation is no stranger to burnout and pressures in the workplace.
- Only 32% of Gen Zs and 39% of Millennials cite work-life balance as the reason for staying at their workplace. (Deloitte)
- And 42% of Gen Zs and 43% of Millennials say they’ve left their company because of workplace pressure. (Deloitte)
- In fact, 46% of Gen Zs and 45% of Millennials say they feel burnout due to work demands, with one in five Gen Zs and one in four Millennials not believing their employer is taking burnout seriously. (Deloitte)
- A global survey also revealed that 49% of 18-29-year-olds feel burned out, compared to 38% of those over 30. (Future Forum)
- However, 70% of employees under 30 also said dealing with work issues at home wasn’t a problem—but this number dropped to 52% for those over 30. (Deloitte)
- Older employees in Finland, Lithuania, and Sweden were more likely to point out the maintenance of work-life balance. (Gdansk University of Technology)
As well as generational differences, there are also distinctions between men and women. Interestingly, many statistics show that despite men working longer hours, women tend to strive more for a healthy work-life balance.
- Across OECD countries*, 14% of male employees work very long hours, compared to 6% of women. (OECD)
- Additionally, only 67% of males indicated that work-life balance was very important when choosing a job, as opposed to 78% of females. (Statista)
- Another survey also found that 60% of women chose greater work-life balance and well-being as “very important” for a new job. (Gallup)
- Despite this, a global survey revealed that 34% of women rated their ability to ‘switch off’ as poor or extremely poor. (Deloitte)
- Out of those, the survey found that 42% worried their career progression would suffer if they weren’t always available, and 18% claimed lack of work-life balance was the main reason for their resignation. (Deloitte)
- Women were also revealed to suffer 32% more burnout than men. (Future Forum)
- When questioned about employees with children, 51% claimed women had a healthier work-life balance, compared to 37% who chose men. (Business Insider)
Health and Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance goes way beyond prioritizing personal time. Studies show that long hours can seriously damage your emotional and physical well-being.
- In 2016, it was discovered that working over 55 hours a week was associated with a 35% increased risk of a stroke and a 17% increased risk of ischemic heart disease. (WHO/ ILO)
- In the same year, 398,000 people died from a stroke and 347,000 from heart disease—both linked to working over 55 hours a week. (WHO/ILO)
- An unhealthy work-life balance also affects your mental health. More than two-thirds of employees have had their sleep negatively affected by issues in the workplace. (Mental Health America)
- In addition, an Australian study discovered that employees working over 55 hours had an increased risk of new major depression symptoms. (University of South Australia)
- The study found that a person’s risk of depression increased by 300% due to poor psychological well-being in work-life. (University of South Australia)
- Work-life balance mental health struggles were also recorded back in 2006, as it was found that over three-fourths claimed work-related stress affected their personal lives, especially among men. (Anxiety & Depression Association of America)
- Seven in 10 of these adults claimed workplace stress impacted their personal relationships, especially with their spouses. (Anxiety & Depression Association of America)
- For women, a 5-year study revealed long working hours is a risk factor for developing anxiety and depression symptoms. (Cambridge University Press)
- Generally, employees suffering from burnout report 22x more stress and anxiety at work than those who are not. (Future Forum)
Burnout is the feeling of physical or emotional exhaustion due to overworking. Neglecting personal time by spending long hours working can often lead to burnout and a whole load of other issues.
- Burnout is on the rise, with a global survey recording an 8% increase in burnout since the last quarter, bringing the total to 40%. (Future Forum)
- In the US, two out of five workers claim to be experiencing burnout. (Future Forum)
- A survey spanning 11 countries found that 48% of employees and 53% of managers feel burnt out at work. (Microsoft)
- A smaller survey of US professionals revealed that 77% had experienced burnout in their current role, and 83% said work burnout has negatively impacted their personal relationships. (Deloitte)
- Those who spend too much time in meetings are 38% more likely to feel burnout, and those who feel pressure to be productive or quickly respond to messages, even outside working hours, are twice as likely to experience burnout. (Future Forum)
- Burnout has been found to decrease productivity by 32% and the ability to focus by 60%. (Future Forum)
- Burnt-out employees are twice as likely to feel disconnected from their company’s values, leadership, and colleagues, as well as 3x more likely to look for a new job. (Future Forum)
- Despite this, almost 70% of professionals believe their employers aren’t taking the necessary measures to prevent burnout. (Deloitte)
- Moreover, 21% claim their company doesn’t offer any programs or initiatives to alleviate burnout. (Deloitte)
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Health complications, burnout, and mental health discussions are prompting many to readjust their priorities and achieve a healthier balance.
- Currently, a global survey revealed that the average full-time worker spends 63% of their day on personal care and leisure activities (OECD)
- The US falls just below average, with full-time workers spending 61% of their day, or 14.6 hours, on personal care and leisure. (OECD)
- An American Worker Survey found that 69% prioritize their personal lives over their work life. (Prudential)
- In fact, 1 in 5 workers say they would take a pay cut of approximately 10% if it meant improving their work-life balance. (Prudential)
- A UK survey also found that 59% of mothers and 69% of fathers would reduce their working hours to spend more time with their families. (University of Kent & University of Birmingham)
- Shifting priorities were also revealed in a 2019 British survey that showed 40.97% prioritized work-life balance when deciding on their current role. This has risen to 41% in 2022, notably overtaking salary. (Aviva)
- Outside of work, a small survey showed that 64% didn’t struggle to control their use of technology outside work hours, and 60% stated they are currently happy with their work-life balance. (First Psychology Scotland)
Impact of Covid-19 on Work-Life Balance
The emergence of Covid-19 brought major disruptions on a global scale. Workers across the world were forced to work from home, with many struggling to separate their work and personal lives. Despite it being years since the world went into lockdown, the effects are still lingering.
- During the pandemic, one-third of workers switched jobs, of which 49% prioritized their personal lives over work. (Prudential)
- Throughout the lockdown, parents experienced high levels of work-family conflict, with 49% of mothers claiming remote work prevented family time and 50% stating family time prevented work time. (University of Kent & University of Birmingham)
- Since the pandemic, 57% of Gen Zs and 53% of Millennials say their workplace mental health and well-being as been further prioritized by their employers. (Deloitte)
- Despite this, a 2022 survey revealed that 81% of professionals are more burnt out than at the start of the pandemic. (Korn Ferry)
- Another survey showed that 44% of employed adults are experiencing burnout as they are adjusting to a new remote/hybrid model. (Prudential)
The growth of remote working has accelerated in recent years, largely due to the global pandemic. While many returned to their workplace once the storm settled, countless workers have opted to continue working remotely.
- Remote work has grown in popularity, with a global survey revealing that flexible, remote work policies were the number one factor in improving company culture over the last two years. (Future Forum)
- A 2022 survey found that 50% of workers cited remote work as their ideal working environment. (Zippia)
- A German survey also revealed that 77% of employees completely or mostly agree that working from home helped to balance work and family life.(Statista)
- Additionally, a separate survey discovered that remote employees are 14% more likely to say they’re “very satisfied” at work than on-site workers. (Survey Monkey)
- Workers with total schedule flexibility reported having 29% more productivity and 53% more focus than workers with rigid schedules. (Future Forum)
- This was mirrored in another survey, where 74% claimed to have more focus and energy while working from home compared to the office. (Korn Ferry)
Read our 100 Employee Productivity Statistics to learn more surprising facts about productivity in the workplace.
Downsides of Remote Work
While remote working is gaining traction, this isn’t the best option for everyone. In fact, many professionals working from home have struggled to separate their work and personal lives.
- A 2020 survey found that 2 out of 3 employees experienced blurred boundaries between work and home. (University of Kent & University of Birmingham)
- Results from a survey involving 1,004 remote and on-site employees found that 29% of remote workers struggled with work-life balance, compared to only 23% of on-site workers. Regarding Millennials, 1 in 3 struggled to main their work-life balance. (AirTasker)
- The same study also revealed that 26% left work early due to feeling overwhelmed. (AirTasker)
- Another survey also reflected these feelings, in which 54% of remote workers experienced heightened stress, and 45% felt high anxiety levels. This is compared to 49% and 42% of office workers, respectively. (AirTasker)
- Productivity levels also differ, with on-site workers reporting 7.8 hours of work daily compared to 5.6 for remote workers. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Days off give us the much-needed opportunity to unwind and disconnect from work duties. But according to statistics, not everyone is taking advantage of vacation days, with many opting for extra cash instead of time to relax.
- Research into 21 developed countries found that every country except the US required employers to offer 10–30 paid vacation days a year. (The Center for Economic and Policy Research)
- In 2018, it was discovered that 768 million vacation days in the US were unused. (US Travel)
- A survey involving 1000 professionals revealed that one in four never or rarely takes all their vacation days. (Deloitte)
- In the US, 63% of workers said they would choose to get paid for leftover sick days rather than get extra time off. (Business Insider)
- The majority of Americans claimed they would rather be paid an extra $20,000 than have an additional four weeks of vacation when choosing a new job. (OECD)
- Amongst these respondents, only 32% would choose to have extra time off. (OECD)
Work-Life Balance Jobs
While every job has its pros and cons, it’s no secret that some jobs carry more stress and responsibilities than others. Here’s how different professions cope with managing work-life balance.
- According to a Gallup survey, K-12 workers experience the worst burnout compared to any other national industry, with 44% saying they “always” or “very often” experience burnout. (Gallup)
- Amongst K-12 workers, teachers experience the most burnout at 52%, and college/university workers come in second at 35%. (Gallup)
- Female teachers, in particular, experienced the most burnout at 55%, compared to 44% of male teachers. (Gallup)
- A Canadian study found that a heavy workload and work-life interference is the leading cause of nurses experiencing burnout. (Environmental Research and Public Health)
- A 6-month survey also revealed that burnout was the most dominant factor behind wanting to leave their job. (The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing)
- The same study showed that nurses with high scores in achieving work-life balance had low intentions to leave their job. (The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing)
- The 2021 Survey of America’s Physicians showed 61% had experienced burnout—a steep increase from the 40% in 2018. (The Physician Foundation)
- Among respondents, female physicians experienced greater feelings of burnout at 69%, compared to 57% of male physicians. (The Physician Foundation)
- Since 2020, a global survey revealed that more than a third of knowledge workers have gone back to the office full-time. Subsequently, work-life balance has dropped by 17% every quarter. This is twice the decline compared to remote and hybrid workers. (Future Forum)
- The work-life balance study also found that knowledge workers who have little or no ability to set their hours, have 1.7x decreased work-life balance, 2.2x worse work-related stress and anxiety, and 1.4x increased burnout. (Future Forum)
- A 2022 report revealed that 86% of lawyers work outside the standard 9–6 hours a day, with lawyers working regular hours reporting better mental health. (Legal Trends Report)
- The survey also found that among lawyers who have changed jobs, 37% claimed work-life balance played an important role in their decision to switch. (Legal Trends Report)
- When questioned about their reasons for quitting their job, a global survey found that 63% blamed it on poor work-life balance and burnout. (UKG)
- Regarding leadership roles, middle managers were at the highest risk of burnout at 43%, followed by senior managers at 37%, and executives at 32%. (Future Forum)
- Those working in retail, manufacturing, and food/beverage were most likely to select “always” or “often” for work stress affecting their personal relationships. (Mental Health America)
- A small study involving social workers revealed that reduced working hours improved general mood, and increased control over private life. These improvements led to decreased burnout risk and better client care. (Nordic Social Work Research)
- A recent study found that 98% of HR professionals have experienced burnout in the last six months. (Workvivo)
- In the US, 43% of desk workers also reported feeling burnout. (Future Forum)
- A global survey found that employees working at companies who are not embracing digital transformation, are 38% more likely to experience burnout than those working at digitally progressive companies. (Future Forum)
- On a positive note, 42% of freelancers agree that freelancing gives them the flexibility required to manage their personal circumstances that may otherwise limit their availability or abilities. (Upwork)
Top 10 Companies with the Best Work-Life Balance
According to the 2022 report by Glassdoor, here are the best companies to work for regarding work-life balance—
- Dropbox: 4.83/5
- SailPoint Technologies: 4.77/5
- MathWorks: 4.77/5
- Asana: 4.76/5
- Box: 4.75/5
- Zeigler Auto Group: 4.74/5
- Atlassian: 4.72/5
- CoverMyMeds: 4.65/5
- Cornerstone Home Lending: 4.64/5
- eXp Realty: 4.63/5
Work-Life Balance Around the World
A global 2020 OECD survey covering 38 countries, revealed the top 10 countries for work-life balance, based on working hours, and personal/leisure time (scores out of 10)—
- Italy: 9.4
- Denmark: 8.6
- Norway: 8.5
- Spain: 8.4
- Netherlands: 8.3
- France: 8.1
- Sweden: 8.1
- Germany: 8.0
- Full-time Italian workers reportedly spent 69% of their day, or 16.5 hours, on personal care and leisure (more than the 15-hour average). (OECD)
- The US and the UK ranked in the worst 15 countries, with scores of 5.2 and 5.6, respectively. (OECD)
- Among the 38 countries, Mexico was ranked the worst for work-life balance, with a score of 0.4. Mexico also has the highest proportion of people working very long hours for paid work, at 27%. (OECD)
* The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development covers 38 countries, including the US, Australia, UK, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Canada.
Ultimately, the meaning of work-life balance is a matter of perspective. But paying attention to your mental and physical health is a good place to start.
If you want to improve your work-life balance, here are some simple work-life balance tips you can practice—
- Take breaks to improve your concentration and energy.
- Prioritize your well-being by taking care of your mental and physical health.
- Communicate your boundaries and learn to say no if you feel overworked.
- Schedule time for personal relationships and time for yourself.
- Unplug after work hours if you’re struggling to disconnect.
AUTHOR Lauren Bedford
Lauren is a published content writer who is passionate about helping and informing others through her content. In the last 5 years, Lauren has written about a range of subjects, including business, technology and finance.