Finding work life balance as an expat

02 June 2022

Achieving a good work life balance is not the easiest of tasks especially when working as an expat abroad on assignment. We’ve identified key areas of focus for improving your work life balance and, in turn, improving your chances of a successful time on assignment.

Work life balance is the symmetry of our professional and personal lives. The lines between work and home life have become more blurred over the last number of years as working from home became increasingly common. 

If you are considering a move overseas there are four key areas that contribute to better work life balance:

  • To have more holidays from work
  • To have benefits like maternity and paternity leave
  • To have more time to spend with friends and family
  • To have more time for hobbies and volunteer work you enjoy


Based on these factors we’ve identified the top 5 countries for good expat work life balance:

Average working week: 37 hours

Paid holiday time: 5 weeks 

Average working week: 36-40 hours

Paid holiday time: 4 weeks.

Average working week: 42.9

Paid holiday time: 30 days 

Average working week: 42.7

Paid holiday time: 20 days

Average working week: 40.6 hours

Paid holiday time: 10 days

Having a good work life balance has been proven to have a positive impact on mood which in turn broadens mindset, improves interest, and energises employees at every level, enabling better work performance. On the other hand, having a bad work life balance can contribute to burnout and reduced productivity. 

Improved work life balance can also contribute positively to business profitability. A positive atmosphere and well rested employees are much more likely to be creative, engaged and less likely to leave than their exhausted counterparts. 

Research conducted across 44 industries in Spain solidified the link between work life balance and profitability through additional effort resulting in greater efficiency and productivity in the business.

Work life imbalance has become an issue for employees regardless of whether they are on assignment or not. Over the course of the pandemic office-based employees transitioned to remote working, many from home, blurring the line between work and home life. 

If you find you have been putting too much focus on your work life for an extended period the repercussions for your health, wellbeing and the success of your expat assignment can be severe. Effects of a poor work life balance include:


  • Poor mental health 
  • Burnout
  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism
  • Increased stress
  • Effects on physical health
  • Expat failure

a)    Set realistic goals to maintain a good work life balance

Remember that it may not be possible to prioritise social life at busier periods like year-end or at a critical part of a high value project. Goals need to allow for this. 

b)    Make small changes

You don’t have to make huge changes to see results. If you want to reduce the time you spend in the office. Start small, by reducing it by 30 minutes a day. That’s 2.5 hours of extra time over a working week. 

c)    Learn to say no

Learning to say no is part of the process that may not sit well with you, but it is necessary. Work out where your boundaries lie at a particular time and act accordingly.

d)    Learn to delegate

It is easy to take on more than we can handle at work or at home. Take some time to review your to-do list and delegate tasks to others.  

e)    Communicate

Take some time to communicate your work life balance goals with others inside and outside of work. 

f)     Speak to a professional

If you are finding it difficult to work out where your priorities lie or you feel things are getting out of control, consider speaking to a professional. If you have international health insurance it may include an expat assistance programme with access to professional counselling.