The Top Cities to Work in For a Good Work-Life Balance

Discover why work-life balance should play a key role in deciding where to go to business school

A recent global survey by the professional services firm PwC, found that millennials are more concerned with work-life balance than landing a job and earning a good salary. Given that millennials make up the majority of the graduate business education population, many would-be MBAs are thinking carefully about the location of a business school before applying to its courses. And because many prospects base their study choice on where they want to work after they have graduated, location is an even more important consideration for students. 

Schools often tout their host cities as one of their key advantages. But which are the best to live, study and work in?

Each year the consultancy Mercer ranks the world’s cities based on quality of living. Vienna, Zurich, Auckland, Munich and Vancouver are ranked the highest respectively, and the majority of the cities are not home to the world’s best business schools, which are often in the US. Despite increased political and financial volatility in Europe, many of its capitals offer the world’s highest quality of living. 

Mercer’s survey also includes a city infrastructure ranking that assesses each city’s supply of electricity, drinking water, telephone and mail services, and public transportation as well as traffic congestion and the range of international flights available from local airports. Singapore tops the city infrastructure ranking, followed by Frankfurt and Munich, both tied for second place.

Many MBAs choose to work abroad as this can make them more employable, says Mark Thomas, associate dean for international affairs at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France. “Graduates who have had experience in other cultures have a greater ability to develop their careers more quickly.” 

Desi Schmitt, Audencia Nantes director of international relations, adds: “Living abroad and studying abroad gives the student a perspective of another country’s way of teaching, seeing and solving problems.”

But in the rush to progress in their career, many find they are in the office all-hours. “The worst thing about working in Mexico,” says Rodrigo Medez, an IESE Business School graduate who worked in the country, “is the work-life balance. Things are changing here, slowly, but I would say that in several companies there is still this misleading belief that the longer you stay in the office, the better employee you are.” He adds that this culture leads to lost productivity.

 

How much of a role should a city play in choosing where to study for an MBA?

When Abraham Meir was applying to business schools, it was among his top considerations. He settled on IESE, in Barcelona, which “has its pros and cons, but for me it is a winner in quality of life and cost of living,” he says. 


Meir also runs a tech startup in Barcelona and says the ability to attract talent from all around Europe is another benefit of working in the city. “Barcelona is small and serves as a great hub to most major cities in the world,” he adds. 

Singapore is the highest-ranked Asian city in Mercer’s index. In addition to a good quality of living, Susanna Leong, vice dean of graduate studies at National University of Singapore Business School, says the city state is a good place for anyone hoping to work in Asia. 

“Singapore is well-known internationally for the quality of its education system, and being in the heart of Asia, it is a choice destination for students,” she adds. “Singapore is also an attractive market for global talent and is often a stepping stone for job placements outside of Singapore, in the Asian region.”

The NUS MBA, for instance, provides the opportunity for individuals of various nationalities to tap into the network of more than 34,000 NUS Business School alumni across the globe.

 

What challenges do MBAs face with moving to a new city to get their MBA?

“Living in foreign countries draws heavily on the ability of individuals to adapt to different norms and customs,” says Thomas at Grenoble EM. 

One thing to consider is the language spoken in the country, which may impact your job prospects. “Individuals who work in the US at multinational companies where multi-linguicism is not a requirement, often find ways to add value and distinguish themselves by being multi-lingual,” says Julia Zupko, director of the Career Development Office at Yale School of Management


Of course, there are many important factors to consider when choosing a business school. But what a city offers can add much to your MBA experience, students and graduates conclude.

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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