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Work-Life Balance in Canada: Québec Cities Thrive Beyond the 9-to-5

In Ontario, Burlington boasts the best work-life balance, while the District of North Vancouver surprises as a top spot in British Columbia. Elsewhere, big cities are still figuring it out.

by Alexandra Ciuntu
8.1K views
4 min. read

Work-life balance — the ultimate tightrope act of juggling work, family, friends, errands, hobbies and chill time without tipping one way or another too far. Although this sweet spot looks different for everyone, where we live plays a vital role, too: Some places make it easy to manage work and play, while others are synonymous with burnout.

Beyond the usual economic metrics and demographic rankings, a city’s heartbeat lies in its ability to make everyday life feel like a win-win. Sure, when considering the ideal place to call home, factors such as financial opportunities, quality of life and cultural offerings inevitably come to mind. Yet, among them, one all-encompassing aspect often stands out for the average adult — work-life balance.

Point2 analysts looked into relevant data about the country’s 100 largest cities to determine where work-life fusion feels effortless. We combed through 30 key metrics, covering Work Intensity, Health & Wellbeing, and Liveability, from work hours to available healthcare professionals, and commute woes to where you can stretch your legs after hours. We even factored in after-tax income, rent, and utilities because — let’s face it — financial Zen matters.

Fortunately, Canadian professionals happen to live in one of the top countries for work-life balance. But, in the big city, a perfect work-life balance is a thing of fanciful glossy magazines. And, data reflects that as some of the country’s best cities for it managed to score a little more than 65 points out of a maximum of 100. Here’s what we learned:

 

Life & work life are a little easier in:

  • Lévis, QC; Québec City, QC; and the District of North Vancouver, BC — the large Canadian cities that offer the best chances at a good work-life balance.
  • Burlington, Aurora, and Newmarket — the only Ontario cities in a top 10 otherwise dominated by Québec entries. Notably, almost all Québec cities analyzed were in the top-third of the rankings.

 

Health & Wellbeing; Work Intensity; & Livability — the 3 key aspects that can make or break the work-life balance:

  • Health & Wellbeing: The City of North Vancouver, BC, scores the highest in wellness. Aurora and Newmarket, ON, enjoy the next-healthiest positions on the list, followed mostly by Ontario and British Columbia cities that score big in metrics like life expectancy, perceived life stress, available general practitioners, or even body mass index.
  • Work Intensity is something that Lévis, Québec City, and Gatineau know how to manage. Alongside a few more Québec cities, they score high in terms of reasonable working hours, low unemployment rates, and favorable income inequality indexes.
  • Liveability: Something as simple as air quality and greenness put Fredericton, NB, and St. John’s, NL, at the top of the list — a testimony to surroundings influencing one’s view of life and work alike.
  • Jump to the full table to see all 100 cities ranked by 30 metrics relevant to work-life balance, and grouped into Health & Wellbeing, Work Intensity, and Liveability.

 

Work-Life Balance in Canada’s 100 Largest Cities

Breaking down the 3 key aspects of balancing work & play: Cities in BC & ON win at wellness, Atlantic Canada takes the lead in liveability, while QC cities manage it all

The tug of war between professional and personal life is influenced by lifestyle and economic factors that can foster juggling work responsibilities with home life in a way that keeps you healthy and fulfilled. Easier said than done as almost one-third of Canadians reported that work had interfered with their personal life in 2022.

Granted, achieving work-life balance is subjective and varies depending on individual preferences, lifestyle choices and, of course, career demands. From coast to coast, Canada’s largest cities manage to tick various boxes crucial to work-life harmony. That being said, it’s Lévis and Québec City that rank supreme as beacons of balance, scoring 69 and 67 out of 100, respectively.

So, how well do Canada’s major cities stack up when it comes to managing both professional and personal life? Use the filters to rank the 100 largest cities based on the three aspects of work-life balance: Health & Wellbeing; Work Intensity; and Liveability:

 

 

Perhaps surprisingly, the District of North Vancouver, BC, offers working locals the opportunity to thrive both personally and professionally. Similarly, Burlington, Aurora, and Newmarket, ON, join the outlier lines in a list dominated by Québec cities that make work feel like a part of life —  not the other way around.

Best Cities for Work-Life Balance in Québec: Lévis & Québec City

Big cities in La Belle Province know how to strike that elusive equilibrium. Namely, more than half of the 10 best places for work-life balance are located in Québec, spearheaded by Lévis. Nearby Québec City is a close second, followed by Blainville, Trois-Rivières, and Laval.

The province scores high in reasonable working hours and a low unemployment rate of mostly less than 10%. But what is balance without health — mental and otherwise?

The good news is that about 95% of residents in all of the Québec cities analyzed reported feeling satisfied with their lives overall. It doesn’t hurt that most areas happen to score high in the number of employed psychologists (Blainville counts 71 psychologists per 1,000 residents — the most out of the country's largest cities).

best cities for Work-Life balance in Québec

Along the same lines, residents in many Québec cities report being in very good or excellent health (more than 69% in both Lévis and Québec City), with few reporting struggles with mood disorders.

In Trois-Rivières, fewer than 5% of residents reported dealing with disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, mania, or dysthymia. It may also help that the financial aspect doesn’t seem to take its toll on locals, as Trois-Rivières displays one of the lowest costs of living in terms of rent and utilities, leading to almost 87% of people spending less than 30% of their income on housing costs.

Even so, the paradox is that many QC cities rank in the bottom half of the list when it comes to everyday stress, with significant percentages of the local population perceiving everyday life as quite a bit or extremely stressful.

 

Best Cities for Work-Life Balance in Ontario: Burlington & Aurora

Three Ontario cities are among the country’s 10 best for juggling professional and personal life. At the top, Burlington enjoys a balanced mix of positive health perceptions, with 93% of its residents reporting high levels of life satisfaction. Notably, the city boasts one of the lowest crime severities too. Not to be outdone, Aurora and Newmarket round out the podium and score high, particularly in terms of life expectancy and helpful numbers of medical specialists and general practitioners.

Caledon, the province’s fourth-best city for work-life balance, barely misses on Canada’s top 10. The nation’s happiest city enjoys one of the lowest crime severities, the second-highest median after-tax household income, as well as the number of specialists and general practitioners. Plus, its expansive landscapes put the city in the lead when it comes to average greenness.best cities for Work-Life balance in Ontario

It seems like finding balance in life might just be part of the package in Ontario, considering that most cities boast a hearty life expectancy of around 80 to 85 years. And, with studies linking working from home to improved work-life balance, Oakville and Ottawa stand out with about 44% of people having the opportunity to do so.

 

Best Cities for Work-Life Balance in British Columbia: District of North Vancouver & Port Coquitlam

Judging by the low prevalence of high blood pressure among residents, some BC cities seem to ace that delicate balance between professional commitments and personal fulfillment. In this case, it might have something to do with having the second-shortest working hours after Québec, as well as some of the best Walk Scores® in the country.

The District of North Vancouver is the best at work-life balance in BC (as well as 3rd best in Canada). Residents here enjoy a $106,000 after-tax median household income, a reasonable cost of utilities compared to other big cities, and even good air quality.

visual ranking the best cities for Work-Life balance in British Columbia

Port Coquitlam comes in second, scoring particularly high when it comes to income inequality and long life expectancy. In the same way, peaceful balance seems to be paying off in Richmond, which boasts the highest life expectancy among all 100 cities: Residents here live to be almost 87 years old, on average. The City of North Vancouver comes in third in the region but actually ranks highest in the country when we look at factors related to Health & Wellbeing.

Finally, a special shout out goes to Victoria, which, despite falling somewhere down the middle in terms of work-life balance, makes up for it with plenty of food and drinking places for happy hour after work.

 

Best Cities for Work-Life Balance in Atlantic Canada: St. John's, NL, & Fredericton, NB

Cities in Atlantic Canada might not yet have perfected the harmony between work-related activities and those devoted to personal pursuits, but they excel at one thing: Less stress.

St. John's, NL, ranks the highest in the region, boasting remarkably high life satisfaction and perception of health — mental well-being included. Most importantly, it’s the most stress-free city in the country: Fewer than 13% of its residents have reported that most days are quite a bit or extremely stressful.

cities with best Work-Life balance Atlantic CanadaFredericton, NB, comes in second, but the city actually ranks highest in terms of Liveability overall. Successful work-life balance here involves low stress, a short average commute time of under 15 minutes, and a low percentage of people holding multiple jobs.

To that end, a reduced financial strain is a big part of a stress-free work-life balance. Luckily, only 5% or less of residents in most Atlantic Canada cities hold multiple jobs. Moreover, the region also has some of the lowest rent prices, as well as home prices less than half the national benchmark price. More precisely, Cape Breton, NS, and Saint John, NB, display home prices below $290,000 as of March.

 

Best Cities for Work-Life Balance in The Prairies: Strathcona County & Airdrie, AB

The trick to managing both professional and personal responsibilities is ensuring that neither area dominates nor detracts significantly from the other. As it turns out, this trick is hard to master, especially in The Prairies.

Most big cities in The Prairies make the second half of the work-life balance list. That said, many still scored high in at least a few metrics that can contribute to a well-rounded lifestyle.

For instance, Strathcona County, AB, is the region’s best for work-life balance due to a mix of factors: Low crime severity, one of the highest after-tax median household incomes ($105,000), and the fact that more than 85% of residents spend less than 30% of their income on housing costs.

visual ranking the best cities for Work-Life balance in The Prairies

At the same time, around 66% of locals in Airdrie and Calgary, AB, say they are in good or excellent health. What's more, Airdrie boasts about 20 psychologists per 1,000 people. In the same vein, more than 95% of locals in Regina, SK, report high levels of life satisfaction, whereas Saskatoon claims the title of second-least-stressful city in Canada, after St. John's, NL.

For professionals prioritizing affordable rent as a crucial aspect of their work-life peace of mind, Lethbridge, AB, stands out with the lowest cost of living in terms of rent. Renting in Lethbridge averages just $1,125 — a stark comparison to the $4,000 to $5,000 range commonly seen in cities like Toronto or Vancouver.

Clearly, work and personal life can intertwine — even in some of Canada’s bustling hubs. While the level of balance achieved may differ, the key is to align practical priorities with personal aspirations. And, as Canadians walk down their professional path, the encouraging reality is that it doesn’t have to deviate from the personal one.

 

 

Methodology

  • For this study, we considered the 100 largest Census Subdivisions (Cities) based on the most recent data from Statistics Canada 2021 Census of Population.
  • The report uses a combination of ranking scores and weighted averages. We analyzed 30 metrics, each graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing the maximum index of a specific metric. To determine the cities with the best Work-Life Balance, we calculated the weighted average across all metrics to determine and compare overall scores, resulting in ranks.
  • Metrics were grouped into three relevant categories, as follows:
    • Work Intensity: Percentage of People Working from Home; Working Hours; Unemployment Rate; Percentage of People with Multiple Jobs; Commute Time (minutes); Gini Index (inequality index on adjusted after-tax household income).
    • Health & Wellbeing: Life Expectancy (years); Perceived Health; Perceived Mental Health; Perceived Life Stress; Mood Disorder (depression, bipolar disorder, mania, or dysthymia); Life Satisfaction; Body Mass Index (percentage of overweight or obese residents); High Blood Pressure; Employed Specialists & General Practitioners (per 1,000 residents); Employed Psychologists (per 1,000 residents).
    • Liveability: Percentage of People Spending Less than 30% of Income on Housing Costs; Median After-Tax Household Income; Cost of Living - Rent; Cost of Living - Utilities; Benchmark Price (as of March 2024); Crime Severity Index; Average Greenness; Air Quality; Walk Score; Performing Arts Businesses per 10,000 residents; Spectator Sports Businesses (per 10,000 residents); Museums (per 10,000 residents); Amusement Parks & Arcades (per 10,000 residents); Food Services & Drinking Places (per 10,000 residents).
  • Data per Statistics Canada is at city level, with exceptions where lack thereof led to data on the next available standard geographical area being used instead (ex.: metro, province, region). Data on Hours Worked and on Multiple Jobholders sourced at province level; Data on Perceived Health, Perceived Mental Health, Perceived Life Stress, Depression, Life Satisfaction, Body Mass Index, High Blood Pressure, Average Greenness sourced at metro level.
  • Walk Score® as per walkscore.comThe study uses a Walk Score estimate based on various geographical points distributed citywide for the following locations: Greater Sudbury, Chatham-Kent, Clarington, Strathcona County, Cape Breton, District of North Vancouver, Kawartha Lakes, Caledon, Wood Buffalo, Norfolk County, and Mirabel.
  • Cost of Living for Rent and Utilities as per Numbeo; Benchmark Price (or median/average sale prices, based on data availability) per CREA and Local Real Estate Boards.

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage and freely grant permission to reuse, host or repost this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to Point2Homes.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

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