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Thomas Wilkinson, former CEO, AXA - Global Healthcare

Working hours aren't key to expats' improved work-life balance

PUBLISHED: 24 July 2019 | LAST UPDATED: 30 May 2022

Our research suggests that for many expats, the way in which they spend their downtime has more impact on their work-life balance than the prospect of working shorter hours.

Research* by AXA – Global Healthcare reveals that nearly half (46%) of expats   feel their work-life balance is better than in their home country  , despite only a fifth (22%) of those claiming to work shorter hours since moving abroad.  

Indeed, despite a third (34%) of all expats surveyed working between 40 and 45 hours per week and nearly a quarter (22%) claiming to work in excess of 46 hours per week, a fifth (21%) would say that they actually moved abroad specifically for a better work-life balance. 

It would appear, therefore, that shorter working hours  are not crucial to an expats’ improved work-life balance. Instead, a range of alternative reasons were cited, with the most common including having better leisure opportunities (35%), more disposable income (32%) and an easier commute (31%). A third (32%) also said that they are able to spend more time with their family.

Respondents in the UAE were among the most likely to say that their work-life balance is better than that in their home country (61%). This put them ahead of those in France (52%), the UK (46%) and Canada (44%) by some margin. 

However, the number of hours worked varied by region. Four-fifths (79%) of expats in the UAE, for example, reported working in excess of 40 hours per week. This was in comparison with two-thirds of those in the UK (64%) and Canada (66%), and just two-fifths of those (43%) in France.

Tom Wilkinson, CEO, AXA – Global Healthcare commented: “A clearly defined work-life balance is pivotal to the health and happiness of all workers, and expats are no different. An international assignment can be an intense experience, so it’s important for employers to make sure they give access to appropriate support services throughout a secondment abroad.”

“A healthy work-life balance doesn’t lie solely in the number of hours worked though, and it’s encouraging to see that for many, the expat lifestyle is paying off. Whether it be simply spending more time with family or even exploring new surroundings, being able to enjoy and make the most of some well-earned downtime is essential.”

*Research conducted in February 2019 by Vitreous World. A total of 1,352 expats were surveyed (250 in the UK, France, UAE, Canada and China respectively, and 100 in Hong Kong)

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.