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Out of office hours: Which industries offer the best life-work balance?

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A healthy life-work balance is one in which the demands and opportunities of your personal life are not overshadowed by the demands of your responsibilities at work. Achieving this balance means having enough time to socialize, relax, rest and pursue leisure activities, completely independent of work hours.

At Remote, we take the view that life comes first. That’s why when we discuss this topic, we use the term life-work balance rather than work-life balance. It’s our way of challenging unhealthy attitudes towards work and reframing the conversation.

To find out which industries offer the best life-work balance, we’ve analyzed jobs in 22 different fields to create an overall ranking based on a range of factors that contribute toward a healthy life-work balance. The factors we considered were:

  1. Average salary
  2. Annual bonus pay
  3. Employee turnover
  4. Job satisfaction rating
  5. Median hours worked
  6. Median hours of overtime worked
  7. Percentage of remote jobs
  8. Work/life balance rating
  9. Average number of days annual leave

The best industries for healthy life-work balance

While work-from-home policies have given employees more freedom over their schedules, those same policies have also made it much harder for some people to switch off and stop working.

Since March 2020, the lines between work time and personal time have become blurred like never before. Communication technologies such as Slack and Zoom mean we’re able to contact (and be contacted by) work colleagues at home and outside of work hours. In the era of asynchronous work, “work hours” may not even exist for many companies.

Asynchronous work and location flexibility provide incredible freedom, but they can also create pressure to always be available, making it more difficult to achieve a real life-work balance and truly switch off outside work hours. Some people even feel a need to replace the time that they would have spent commuting to and from work with extra tasks, which means they’re starting earlier and finishing later — and, often, never fully logging off.

Employees and employers should both care about addressing this problem. Consistently poor life-work balance can cause lasting damage to a company’s culture, resulting in poor job satisfaction levels, high absenteeism, decreased quality of work, and a high employee turnover rate. To prevent these situations from arising, employers should follow in the footsteps of companies in our top three best industries for a healthy life-work balance.

The table below ranks the best industries to work in for a healthy life-work balance.

RankIndustryOverall Life-Work Balance Score (out of 10)
1Finance and Insurance7.97
2Education6.49
3Architecture and Engineering6.26
4Information And Communication6.19
5Real Estate6.16
6Legal and Accounting6.05
7Health and Social Work5.66
8Other Service Activities5.64
9Public Administration & Social Security5.58
10Electricity & Gas5.47
11Extraterritorial Organizations And Bodies*5.40
12Mining And Quarrying5.18
13Manufacturing5.06
14Arts & Entertainment4.83
15Administrative Support4.74
16Construction4.69
17Waste Management4.67
18Veterinary4.35
19Agriculture, Forestry And Fishing4.27
20Wholesale & Retail Trade4.18
21Transportation And Storage3.84
22Accommodation And Food Service3.51

Finance and Insurance industry is the best for life-work balance

Our analysis reveals that the industry offering its employees the best life-work balance across all metrics analyzed is the Finance and Insurance sector. 

Whilst this may seem surprising, there are a number of areas where Finance and Insurance ranked above other sectors. For example, the industry has the highest average salary at £62,244, which is over four times the salary of those working in Accommodation and Food Services, who receive an annual salary of £15,048. With the cost of living on the rise at the moment, how much you earn is incredibly important to achieving a positive life-work balance. 

In addition to salary, the average weekly working hours in the Finance and Insurance industry sits at 35 hours, which is slightly lower than the average number worked by full-time workers in the U.K. at 36.5 hours per week. The Construction sector has the highest weekly working hours at just under 40.

The BBC reports that fewer weekly working hours can help employees feel more rested and more able to juggle their responsibilities outside of work, as well as keep burnout at bay, making this metric key to a good life-work balance.

Preventing burnout is easier when employees have plenty of opportunities for time away from work. The Finance and Insurance industry ranks in the top 10 for number of days annual leave, with employees granted an average of 27 days a year to spend away from their jobs. 

This industry also ranks among the top 10 industries for job satisfaction, with employees reporting an average score of 3.85 out of 5. Employees in this industry also report a score of 3.67 out of 5 for life/work balance, which despite being the 14th highest score out of all industries, is still a decent rating. The highest score reported is just 3.9, so Finance and Insurance is not far behind.

Better life-work balance means lower employee turnover

Finance and Insurance professionals have the lowest employee turnover rate of every industry we analyzed — with just 25%, compared to an average turnover of 65% across other industries. 

It’s no surprise this industry ranks highest in our life-work balance score. This industry has one of the highest percentages of remote job offerings, high compensation rates, and high annual leave provisions. Employers who can provide a combination of competitive monetary compensation alongside flexible working conditions can create a strong total rewards program that can attract and retain top talent.

Workers who feel that their employers actively support their life-work balance typically experience higher levels of job satisfaction and are therefore less likely to jump ship to competitors who can offer a higher salary alone.

This is an important consideration for employers looking for ways to bolster their recruitment processes and attract a consistent stream of high-quality candidates. In fact, Forbes reports that more than 80% of millennial workers — who now make up 50% of the workforce — say they “seriously consider how a position will affect their work-life balance” when searching for a new role.

link to How to build a strong and supportive remote work culture
13 MIN

How to build a strong and supportive remote work culture

Remote work culture enables employees to do their best work. It doesn’t force them to work a typical 9-5 schedule, work overtime, or neglect their personal life.

Education industry offers the second best life-work balance thanks to more time away from work

With low working hours and plenty of annual leave, the Education industry offers the second best life-work balance, according to our analysis. 

Employees in the Education sector work an average of just 32.5 hours per week, which is the second lowest after the Accommodation and Food industry (26 hour average working week).

On top of this, the Education industry ranks number one for annual leave, offering an average of 29 days of leave per year, excluding bank holidays. 

Despite the sector’s relatively low average salary of £28,550 and one of the lowest amounts of bonus pay (£67 p/a), it still ranks fourth for job satisfaction (3.98 out of 5) and comes in second overall for work/life balance rating (3.87 out of 5). 

Considering that the Education sector has the second-lowest turnover rate at 42%, it’s clear to see a positive life-work balance is not always about the money. While higher salaries do contribute to a good life-work balance by decreasing money worries and enabling more spending on things we enjoy, they aren’t necessarily the most important contributing factor. 

Architecture and Engineering rank third for life-work balance

The third-best industry for a good life-work balance is Architecture and Engineering.

This industry ranks as the best for those looking for remote working opportunities, with over 11% of job roles offering this in their job advertisements. This figure is significantly higher than other sectors including Veterinary (0.18%), Accommodation and Food Services (0.27%) and Transport and Storage (0.31%). Even office-based jobs in Public Administration, Legal and Accounting and Information and Communication fall short of remote opportunities at 7.13%, 5.96% and 6.1% respectively.

Remote work can drastically improve life-work balance, offering employees the opportunity to be much more flexible with their schedules. Flexibility and the option to choose our own work environment can lead to a healthier balance between our work and home lives, decreasing stress and improving productivity.

As well as offering the most remote opportunities for workers, job satisfaction amongst Architecture and Engineering employees ranks third highest at 3.99/5, only beaten by Construction and Manufacturing. 

The industry also ranks among the top 10 for annual leave at 26 days and also features as one of the best for annual salary at £34,903.

For further information on each industry’s efforts to create a positive life-work balance, please see the full findings below. The top industries are broken down into two tables with the first showcasing how they score for more traditional life-work balance metrics such as average salary, employee turnover and hours worked, and the second displaying progressive metrics such as % of remote jobs available, average annual leave and overall job satisfaction.

IndustryAverage SalaryEmployee TurnoverAvg. hours worked (inc. overtime)
Finance and Insurance£62,244.0025%37.4
Education£28,550.0042%34.8
Mining And Quarrying£43,066.0054%39.9
Architecture and Engineering£34,903.0067%40.9
Information And Communication£47,556.0044%40.4
Real Estate£33,355.0049%39.8
Legal and Accounting£31,504.0031%37.6
Health and Social Work£26,701.0045%39
Veterinary£22,042.0067%37.3
Other Service Activities£24,547.0067%38
Public Administration & Social Security£32,434.0067%40.1
Electricity & Gas£45,541.0067%41.9
Extraterritorial Organizations And Bodies£37,473.0067%36.8
Manufacturing£35,277.0044%42.3
Arts & Entertainment£30,119.00129%37.7
Administrative Support£25,563.0067%41
Construction£36,614.0068%44.9
Waste Management£34,856.0067%42.2
Agriculture, Forestry And Fishing£23,875.0067%45.6
Wholesale & Retail Trade£24,841.0069%39.9
Transportation And Storage£34,268.0060%43
Accommodation And Food Service£15,048.00130%28.8
IndustryJob Satisfaction (out of 5)% of remote jobsLife/Work Balance (out of 5)Avg. Annual Leave
Finance and Insurance3.858.21%3.6726.83
Education3.981.23%3.8729.29
Mining And Quarrying3.965.96%3.4424.83
Architecture and Engineering3.9911.37%3.8626.30
Information And Communication3.846.10%3.7225.90
Real Estate3.964.87%3.6926.00
Legal and Accounting3.875.96%3.7026.03
Health and Social Work3.665.32%3.7128.23
Veterinary3.690.18%3.5527.13
Other Service Activities3.8910.25%3.6425.53
Public Administration & Social Security3.847.13%3.7726.45
Electricity & Gas3.834.47%3.7427.46
Extraterritorial Organizations And Bodies3.815.49%3.7627.69
Manufacturing4.210.83%3.7724.44
Arts & Entertainment3.841.71%3.5526.29
Administrative Support3.62.16%3.9026.19
Construction4.073.48%3.7524.50
Waste Management3.723.67%3.7225.48
Agriculture, Forestry And Fishing3.923.69%3.5827.83
Wholesale & Retail Trade3.790.80%3.5323.67
Transportation And Storage3.780.31%3.6123.93
Accommodation And Food Service3.260.27%3.0326.82

*Metrics that are also factored in this analysis include avg. annual bonus pay, total number of jobs and total number of remote jobs. Average weekly working hours and overtime hours have been combined in the table above however have been taken separately in full dataset here.

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How to improve life-work balance and employee wellbeing

The highest work/life balance score across all industries analyzed was just 3.9 out of 5, so there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Increasing productivity during work hours is a key element of improving life-work balances for employees. The more effectively workers are able to manage their time and spend it working productively, the less likely they are to allow their work responsibilities to spill over into their personal time, which can lead to stress, burnout and poor mental health.

Here are some ways employers can ensure their staff create a healthy balance between work and life. 

Recognise that a healthy life-work balance will look different for everyone

Your employees’ life-work balance can be affected by health concerns, childcare requirements, or other care responsibilities. Giving them the freedom to choose where they work and the hours they work, with remote and flexible schedule options, means they can construct the life-work balance that works for them. Offering more flexibility also supports diverse workforces and helps to attract talent from a wider range of backgrounds.

Nadia Vatalidis, Remote’s VP of People says, “At Remote, we encourage belonging, inclusion, diversity, and equity (BIDE) and believe that the more diverse we become, the more attractive we are to a wider range of people who might consider Remote for their next career move. When you make this a non-negotiable, you create a space your future hires can thrive in.”

Provide training on how to identify stress and poor life-work balance

Whilst employers and senior level managers are responsible for putting measures in place to facilitate a healthy life-work balance everyone within the company knows what to watch for when it comes to stress and burnout. 

It’s important that this type of training is extended beyond management teams so each and every employee is empowered with the skills and knowledge required to support their fellow team members.

This can help to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures that have been put in place and ensure there is continual improvement in this area.

Set company-wide disconnect hours

Work-from-home policies can make it more difficult for employees to switch their devices off outside of work hours. Today, people often email and message one other about work matters during their personal time.

In response to the rise in remote work, Portugal recently banned employers from calling, texting, messaging, or emailing their staff outside of working hours to reinforce healthier life-work balances. Other countries are considering similar laws. While there is little legislation relating specifically to remote working in the U.K. at the moment, there’s nothing to stop companies from proactively introducing no-communication hours themselves.

Introduce a shorter work week

Working five days with two days off each week is a generally accepted working pattern for full-time employees, but attitudes toward this are changing fast. 

Globally, four-day work week trials have largely been met with success, with productivity remaining the same or increasing in some companies across Iceland, Sweden, and Australia. Earlier this year, the U.K. launched perhaps the world’s largest pilot scheme for four-day work weeks, involving more than 3,000 workers at 60 companies across Britain.

Four-day work weeks aim to improve productivity and wellbeing without employees having to sacrifice the equivalent to a day’s worth of pay each week. So far, many organizations have discovered that employees on a four-day work actually surpass the productivity of employees on a five-day week.

Create clear boundaries between employees’ work lives and home lives

Remote’s senior people specialist, Keah Nguyen, advises employees to help their staff set clear boundaries between work and personal time. Nguyen says, “Remote encourages its employees not to have work apps on their phones and to master the art of working asynchronously. By switching to async workflows, team members can work at the hours that are best for them — and not during hours they would rather be doing something else."

Not only does an optimally balanced life-work split hold benefits for employees, but employers also benefit from a reduction in the costs associated with absenteeism and additional recruitment to cope with a high turnover rate. Improved balance means teams experience less stress, a lower risk of burnout, improved wellbeing, and a greater sense of loyalty. 

Do you work in one of the best industries for a positive life-work balance? What changes would you like your company to make? For more information on improving life-work balance for your team, watch a special on-demand event from some of the experts at Remote.

Sources and methodology

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