Why these three German cities offer the ‘best work-life balance’

It's not easy to balance work with your personal life – but new research has found three German cities are particularly good at helping their residents get the best of both worlds.

Why these three German cities offer the 'best work-life balance'
A view of Munich from the rooftops. Photo: Depositphotos/[email protected]

Security experts Kisi analyzed 40 cities worldwide in a bid to find out whose residents have the most well-rounded work-life balance, in terms not only of work intensity, but also their livability and the well-being and rights of citizens.

And they found Munich had one of the best scores compared to cities across the world. Two other cities in the Bundesrepublik are also in the top 10.

Researchers looked at a series of factors related to the amount of time a person dedicates to their job – such as total working hours, commuting, and holiday days taken.

They then evaluated residents' access to state-funded health and welfare programmes, as well as institutional support for gender equality and friendliness toward the LGBT+ community. 

Lastly, researchers determined each city’s livability score by examining citizens’ overall happiness, safety, and access to wellness and leisure venues, which allowed them to assess whether their residents can enjoy their environment after office hours.

Which cities came out on top?

In Germany, Munich, Hamburg and Berlin all ranked in the top 10 of the most livable cities.

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to living on a budget in Munich

But Helsinki in Finland received the highest rating overall. In fact, the Finnish capital is the only city to achieve a satisfaction score of 100. It also received an overall score of 100. That's down to a number of factors.

People who work full time in Finland spend a comparatively low 40.2 hours a week at the workplace, plus holiday entitlement starts at 30 days per year. Employees also get a total of 1,127 days of paid parental leave.

Health care is also above average, with Helsinki ranked sixth behind Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Milan and Oslo on that point, with 86.7 out of 100 points. Helsinki ranks even better (fourth place) in terms of green spaces. The Finnish city with 630,000 citizens is also deemed very good in terms of safety, with 93.3 out of 100 points.

Here's the top 10 cities with the best work-life balance according to the study:

Graph produced by Statista for The Local.

Munich has very low unemployment

After Helsinki comes Munich, in the south of Germany, which scored 98.32 points overall. In the Bavarian capital, people have to work a little longer (41 hours a week), but the unemployment rate is much lower than in Helsinki (2.3 to 6.9 percent).

The average arrival time for workers in Munich is 8.46am and the commuting time (one way) is 27 minutes.

Germany fares worse on holiday entitlement as employees have to make do with a minimum of 20 holiday days per year. However, workers in Munich take on average 29.7 days a year off.

Meanwhile, parents are entitled to 406 days of paid leave.

Health care in Germany also receives a lower score than in Helsinki (83.1 points, 12th place). Access to mental healthcare receives a lower score of 53.7 points.

All three German cities scored a happiness rating of 92.7 points out of 100.

Munich is deemed particularly safe – it scored 94.8 points (fourth place in this category). Meanwhile city stress gets a comparatively low score of 15.8 in Munich.

It's not surprising that Munich is so high up in the list. A recent study found Munich has the highest quality of life in Germany.

READ ALSO: Three German cities ranked in the top 10 places to live

Hamburg third lowest stress score

A view of Hamburg. Photo: Depositphotos/SergiyN

With a total of 93.57 points, Hamburg is fourth in the list. The Hanseatic city had the third lowest stress rating (20.4) after Munich and Sydney.

In Hamburg employees also have to work 41 hours a week on average, and the city has an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent.

Workers in Hamburg arrive to work on average at 9.32am and the commuting time (one way) is 29.5 minutes. When it comes to vacation days, Hamburg employees take on average 29.6 days off a year.

The safety score in Hamburg is a bit lower than Munich at 89.4.

Late start to work in Berlin

The Oberbaumbrücke in Berlin. Photo: DPA

In terms of work-life balance, Berlin ranks sixth among the most livable cities. Germany's capital has a total of 88.92 points overall.

The average arrival time to work for Berlin employees is 9.53am – quite a bit later than the other German cities (although people in Washington DC, Hong Kong and Houston all start work slightly later according to the research).

The average commuting time (one way) is 32.2 minutes and the city stress score is much higher than in the other German cities at 45.7.

The unemployment rate is comparatively high in Berlin at 6.1 percent (34th place in the list). On the other hand, Berlin has a high leisure score rating (82.9 points, 8th place).

The safety rating for the Hauptstadt is 90.7 (13th position in this category compared to the other cities).

Which cities have the worst work-life balance?

The most overworked cities according to the ranking are Tokyo, Singapore, Washington DC, Kuala Lumpur and Houston.

In the study, the US was the only country not to offer paid annual leave at the government level. The study found that employees took an average of just 10 days off – still scoring better than cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong where the average was seven days.

The study pulled statistics and research from data provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Eurostat, the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organisation, among others.

The research aims to shine a light on work-life balance, government policies and infrastructure.

What do you think about the work-life balance in Germany? Let us know: [email protected]

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.