With roughly 60% of global workers saying they have an excellent work-life balance but 77% noting they have experienced burnout at their current job, the current state of global work-life balance statistics has us asking one core question.

Are we at a point of crisis, or does the data offer some hope?

It’s time to dive into the world of work-life balance with a look at the latest research and numbers covering how people felt in 2023 and what they expect in 2024. We’ve broken these reports down into relevant topics.  

However, because most of the research covers multiple topics, we’re adding a source list at the end to make linking and further reading a little easier.

Here are the topics we’ll review:

  • What is work-life balance, and why is it essential
  • Recent data on the topic broadly
  • A look at work-life balance by country and region
  • Remote work’s impact on work-life balance
  • Harms of a negative work-life balance
  • Benefits of a positive balance
  • Factors that influence it
  • And strategies to improve it 

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What is work-life balance, and why is it important?

Work-life balance is a term we see often, but the definition can vary depending on who says it and who hears it. In this instance, we’re going to consider a somewhat complex definition:

Work-life balance is the amount of time you spend working compared to the time you spend pursuing things outside of work, measured in hours, enjoyment, or mental energy.

That might feel different than usual, but we want to clarify something. Your work-life balance depends not only on how much time you spend physically at work but also on the energy, focus, and attention that work demands when you’re not in that office chair.

Comparing just hours may make a 40-hour job have a positive work-life balance because it leaves you roughly 70 hours per week to pursue hobbies — we’ve already removed those 56 hours of sleep we need from the 168 hours in a week.

However, what if your job keeps you awake at night or interferes with your ability to enjoy those hours outside of work? What if it consumes mental energy in those 70 hours? 

Then, the balance you feel is likely less optimistic than the work hours would make it seem.

worker struggles with work-life balance

Why is work-life balance important?

Creating a beneficial work-life balance can lead to improvements in overall well-being. That includes someone’s physical, mental, and emotional health. There are also studies linking a negative work-life balance to higher rates of burnout, impaired sleep, and multiple illnesses.

While we often think about this balance as something only for the team member, companies benefit from promoting a healthy balance, too.

For one, employees with balance are more engaged, which studies suggest can improve the health of an organization. Companies with high levels of engagement improve operating income by 19.2% annually, on average.

Also, it prevents your team from potential burnout. We know burnout can have various major health concerns, not to mention poor performance and creating a toxic work culture.

One of the most surprising bits of research we found while creating our stat roundup is this: managers can’t tell the difference between people who work 80 hours a week and those who pretend to.

The best news for you employers out there, though, is that your teams recognize your work-life balance efforts and appreciate it

One study found that more companies are supporting mental health programs and breaks, and 71% of employees say their employer is showing positive concern for their mental health.

It also noted that 95% of team members with flexible schedules or remote work found these to be effective supports to improve work-life balance and mental health.

7 factors influencing work-life balance

Before diving deeper into the work-life balance’s current state, let’s review what impacts this balance. These seven factors can determine when someone has the flexibility to complete their work, if they can leave it at the office, or if it bleeds into their lives away from work. 

Each factor can be a benefit or a harm to your employees’ work-life balance.

  1. Balanced workload distribution

Workload management focuses on maintaining a realistic balance between tasks and responsibilities, preventing burnout and stress. People need enough support, tools, and time to do their work.

  1. Trust and flexibility

Consider options for flexible working arrangements, remote opportunities, and adjustable working hours to accommodate diverse employee needs and preferences. Flexibility requires that you trust people and work to foster a sense of responsibility and ownership, contributing to a positive work-life balance.

  1. Establishing clear policies and boundaries

Clarity in policies and boundaries, defining expectations and structured frameworks, ensures employees understand rules and the importance of breaks and time off.

  1. Effective communication and openness

Emphasizing clear communication and transparent leadership builds trust, aligns teams, and contributes to work atmosphere. This also includes encouraging employee interaction and engagement in social settings.

  1. Employee well-being and a supportive environment

Prioritizing health and wellness programs, mental health support, and a supportive company culture emphasizes the significance of comprehensive employee well-being.

  1. Leadership practices and acknowledgment

The practice of recognizing achievements in public and private settings. Leadership defines employee culture, whether supportive and healthy or demanding and lopsided.

  1. Commitment to learning and development

A dedication to continuous learning and personal growth through skill development opportunities can contribute to professional advancement and satisfaction around time spent at work.

Work-life balance can look different for younger workers and people in different countries

The current state of work-life balance: 2023 to the present

So, now let’s look at some general work-life statistics around core areas of who we are and how we work.

Employee perspectives

  • 60% of employees around the world report having a healthy work-life balance
  • Of people with a poor balance, 67% say some aspect of work or culture creates the imbalance
  • 33% of employees with a positive work-life balance plan to stay in their current jobs
  • 33% say that personal perfectionism drives their work-life imbalance
Zippia data notes top barriers to a healthy work-life balance
  • 26% of salaried employees work outside business hours
  • 73% of workers believe work-life balance is a core factor in choosing a job, behind only salary
  • 57% to 61% say that a negative work-life balance will stop them from taking a job offer
  • 48% of people would leave a job if it prevented them from enjoying their life
  • 30% of people say they are performing the bare minimum at work due to an imbalance
  • 67% of people say work-life balance improved once they began working remotely
Randstad Workmonitor report highlights age differences in when people would not accept a job without flexibility

Source: Randstad Workmonitor 2023

Company perspectives

  • Unscheduled sick days, often due to burnout and stress, cost companies $2,500 to $4,000 per employee per year
  • 23% of companies believe they promote a good work-life balance
  • 89% of HR professionals saw an increase in retention after implementing flexible work
  • Employees under high stress or working more hours cost companies 50% more in health care costs
  • 41% offer wellness programs that employees feel improve work-life balance
  • Adding recognition and public support tools could reduce burnout among 31% of employees
  • 85% of businesses that provide work-life balance opportunities report being more productive.
  • Companies that offer a healthy work-life balance have 25% less turnover
  • 95% of human resources professionals blamed the loss of good employees on job burnout

Work-life balance by country

Map of the United States noting that 79% of US workers believe that flexible work would create a better work-life balance

Work-life balance in the United States

There are many studies on work in the US, sometimes with varying results. We looked at a range in an attempt to create a snapshot of this large workforce:

  • 48% of workers call themselves “workaholics”
  • 66% skip one meal per day due to working hours
  • 60% of US workers say they don’t have boundaries between work responsibilities and life
  • 33% of employed US adults work on a typical Saturday
  • 72% believe a healthy work-life balance is crucial 
  • 78% of women say this balance is essential to career choices, compared to 67% of men
  • 25% of employees say they never or rarely take days off of work
  • 62% say they check work email outside of work hours.
  • A bad work-life balance is the 2nd most common reason they would be willing to turn down a job
  • 79% believe that flexible working options would allow for a better work-life balance.
  • Workers in the US tie East Asia for the highest daily stress levels
  • The US is ranked 53rd out of 60 on a global list of countries for work-life balance

The tricky thing to square with US employees is that survey results vary wildly. In some, 66% of full-time employees say they don’t believe they have a solid work-life balance. However, in other surveys, 60% say they have an excellent work-life balance. 

This disparity highlights the struggle in data and the importance of this balance. Even if they don’t always agree across surveys, people think a lot about work, personal lives, and how these two impact each other.

One consideration for a positive work-life balance is often the time people can spend with their families weighed against working to earn enough to keep those families financially secure.

European perspectives on work-life balance

Globally, Europe leads in creating a good work-life balance. According to Remote’s global rankings, European countries account for six of the top 10 best countries to work and live in. Spain, France, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, and the UK are all high up. But if you expand the report, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Austria, and Greece are all in the top 20.

Many people achieve work-life balance satisfaction in major markets. However, the perfect work-life balance requires a blend of effort from the person, their work, and local culture. So, think about physical health and personal time as much as job responsibilities, vacation days, and employee retention programs.

Statistical highlights

Some statistical highlights from our data reviews include:

  • European companies have the lowest percentage of engaged employees
  • European employees are toward the low end of global stress levels and daily anger
  • Europeans are generally optimistic about their current job climate and rank among the lowest in terms of intent to leave their current work
  • Spain is ranked as the second best country in the world for work-life balance in part due to its statutory annual leave and short workweek
  • France ranks third due to its minimum wage, annual leave, and existing culture of free time
  • The Netherlands ranks high in work-life balance, with just 0.4% of employees working long hours
  • Only 3% of employees in Italy work 50 or more hours per week, while the average worker devotes 16.5 hours to personal care and leisure, more than any other OECD country
  • Just 1% of workers in Denmark work more than 50 hours in a week
  • Danish Flexjobs and special agreements for older workers can reduce stress and workload without impacting pension or pay in many cases
  • German workers spend an average of 65% of their day on leisure and personal care, leading to a higher work-life balance
  • German parents using the country’s leave policy to work part-time while taking care of children rate their life balance very high
  • 47% of job seekers in the UK say a good work-life balance is the top selling point
  • 25% of workers in the UK say their jobs make it hard to meet personal commitments, while 54% say it makes it difficult for them to relax.
  • Countries with government-sponsored care and entertainment services for children have workers scoring higher work-life balances
  • Improving work-life balance is a reason one-third of Europeans would consider changing jobs
  • Return-to-office mandates are increasing in Europe, and some workers tie this to decreased engagement

European countries highlight some benefits government structures can have on work-life balance. High levels of mandatory leave and care services, high wages, and cultural approaches to home life allow its workers to report generally higher levels of satisfaction with work and home.

A breakdown of the importance in work-life using global data

Source: Randstad Workmonitor 2023

Work-life balance in Asia and Australia

Asia, Australia, and New Zealand cover large areas of land and many, many people. Unfortunately, studies often vary in how they group countries in these regions, making broader comparisons more difficult. We’ve put some general statistics below, but we believe it’s worth diving deeper into a specific country or region if you plan to grow your team there.

From the reports we reviewed:

  • South Asia has the most engaged employees
  • Workers in East Asia tie the US with the highest daily stress levels; Australia is a close second
  • Those in Southeast Asia rank among the lowest in daily stress
  • 25% of employees in South Korea say they experience overwork
  • The average employee in Southern Asia works 45 hours per week.
  • 45% of fathers in China say they must sacrifice time with their children to work to provide financial security
  • Users of Microsoft Teams in Singapore have increased their daily usage of the tool by nearly 2 hours since 2020, and 37% of these users report feeling burnt out
  • 42% of graduate students in Singapore say they would turn down a demanding job that would unbalance their personal and professional life
  • 27% of employees in Turkey work more than 50 hours per week, behind only Mexico in OECD countries.
  • Employees in Australia and New Zealand are in the middle of the global pack in terms of engagement
  • New Zealand ranks as the top country in the world for work-life balance due to annual leave, sick pay, health care, wages, and culture — Australia is fourth
  • Australia and New Zealand have the most favorable job climate in the world for finding a job that people like
  • About half of people throughout Asia and Australia are actively seeking a new job
An Owl Labs chart showing that 78% of people look at work-life balance improvements as a reason to change jobs.

Source: Owl Labs State of Remote Work

Quick stats on remote work and work-life balance

It will come as no surprise that we at Hubstaff are big fans of remote work. But instead of espousing the virtues we see and the benefits that Hubstaff employees consistently report thanks to a remote environment, let’s look at the data.

Here are some top stats around the intersection of work-life balance and remote flexibility:

  • 91% of surveyed employees decided to work remotely because they wanted a better work-life balance
  • 90% of workers say flexible work schedules would increase their morale
  • 85% of workers say remote work would make it easier for them to balance work and life
  • Work-life balance is the top reason people want flexible work 
  • 78% of remote workers would be willing to change jobs for a better work-life balance
  • 72% of workers say remote work is essential to a job offer
  • Remote workers are more likely to work more than 40 hours per week than in-office teams
  • 45% of remote workers say their stress is increasing
A detailed breakdown of work-life balance statistics and preferences based on geographic location. For reader support, please use the link below the image to navigate to the source document

Source: Randstad Workmonitor 2023

Impact of poor work-life balance

A poor work-life balance significantly impacts our daily lives. It makes just about everything worse, from your personal life and job satisfaction to physical and mental health.

To put some numbers behind that, let’s look at the data:

  • 40% of people say a poor work-life balance “ruins” the time they spend with friends and family
  •  As people work longer hours, their performance decreases and can increase the risk of mistakes or injury
  • Work risks associated with overwork increase significantly after 50 hours per week
  • Working more than 55 hours leads to a 35% risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of death from some heart diseases
  • Working more than 50 hours per week is linked to increased risks for anxiety and depression
  • An imbalance creates a significant risk of burnout, and these employees are 2.6 times more likely to be actively seeking a different job
  • The top self-reported issues with a work-life imbalance are loss or harm to family relationships (49%), loss of friendships (47%), and health issues (38%)
A detailed chart showing that younger workers are more likely to quit a job with a poor work-life balance as well as being more likely to quiet quit

Source: Randstad Workmonitor 2023

Strategies for improving work-life balance

Strategies for employees improving their own work-life balance will vary greatly depending on the issue causing the imbalance. Unfortunately, the typical list of improvements many people recommend for companies to take is a bit stuffy and tired.

So, here are a few things you can implement that go beyond the traditional items like reducing workloads, minimizing meetings, and having a Slack channel for favorite songs:

  1. Explain yourself: When you cut out a meeting, reduce a project, or shift a goal, explain why. You can address balance and burnout by ensuring teams know you’re taking something off their plate.
  2. Thank people for boundaries: Most companies have chats or walls for stellar employees. When did you last thank someone for clocking out on time or not responding to a Saturday email?
  3. Give everyone commute time: It’s hard to dive into complex work or meetings right after the commute, whether that’s across town or the apartment. Give every team member time to get settled or enjoy their routine. There should be time for a drive-thru coffee, whether the next destination is the office or the home office.
  4. Make lunchtime sacred: People need a break, and protecting that by preventing meetings during that time can go a long way to improving work and life. The Onion has a take you should read if you still wonder why this is important.
  5. Review workloads regularly: As time goes on, we get more things added to our plates. Managers should periodically review team schedules and workloads. And if you’re scheduling them 35 hours or more for tasks without including checking email and Slack in that list, you’re dramatically overworking your team.
  6. Consider remote work: Studies continually show that having control and a flexible work schedule helps people create a proper work-life balance. Remote options for your teams may be the key to helping them have more leisure time and separate their work and family life. It’s a productivity win for you and a clear path you can offer to help team members achieve work-life balance.
Team member smiles as they have achieved a positive work-life balance

Getting ready for work-life at work

Providing a good work-life balance shows clear benefits for individuals and companies. Randstad’s global look also provides another critical insight if you’re a leader. Talent is demanding a better work-life balance, and they view this as something worth leaving over.

Thankfully, most people believe they have a good handle on work and life in their current role. That means the average employer is doing something right but still has the potential to improve and increase employee engagement and productivity.

After the pandemic, the workers of the world feel like things in their day jobs are on the right track. That means you’ve got an opportunity. And hopefully, we’ve pointed out some of the warning signs above to help you avoid pitfalls in the work-life struggle.

When you’re ready to implement flexible work policies and improve the personal well-being of your team members, with some increased productivity on the side, Hubstaff is here to help. And we’ll even add in a free trial so you can see how we support a harmonious work-life balance.

Resources and references

Data in this post comes from multiple studies and sources, including:

Category: Management