Balancing remote work and well-being: insights from the Global Remote Work Index report

Decoding the Global Remote Work Index report cover

Remote work has now become the new norm. And the desire to work from anywhere has never been stronger. The possibilities seem endless, from the azure beaches of Bali to the historic cities of Europe.

But beyond these stunning views, whether you're a seasoned digital nomad or just considering a new adventure, one thing is clear: finding the right destination is the key to achieving a perfect work-life balance. Breathtaking scenery is not enough, though. We will look at other important factors that make a destination ideal for remote work. 

In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through the Global Remote Work Index (GRWI) report, focusing on two essential dimensions: economic and social safety. These are some of the most important aspects of a fulfilling lifestyle and overall well-being. We’ll uncover the top countries regarding tourism attractiveness, English language proficiency, cost of living, healthcare, and social safety, including personal rights and inclusiveness. Let's take a virtual tour worldwide to find the top dream work locations.

Economic safety: a cornerstone for remote work

Choosing your remote work destination isn’t solely determined by a view from your desk. It’s about finding a balance between your professional needs and personal life. Economic safety covers different economic factors that come into play when living and working in a particular country. It refers to the cost of living, access to healthcare, ease of communication, and the quality of leisure opportunities. A strong score in economic safety means a healthy, economically stable, and expat-friendly environment with very few communicational barriers.

According to the Global Remote Work Index, the destinations leading in economic safety are predominantly English-speaking countries outside of the EU, such as the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Popular with tourists and known for their high-quality healthcare systems, these locations make a comfortable remote working environment.

On the other hand, European countries, such as Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, and Malta, also rank high in economic safety, offering a blend of stability and cultural experiences. Other notable countries in terms of economic safety include Austria, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Finland. These diverse destinations showcase the many aspects to consider when choosing the perfect location for remote work.

Top 15 countries with the highest economic safety rankings

Tourism attractiveness index: the world’s work-and-play paradise

Embracing a remote work lifestyle doesn’t just mean toiling away in isolation. It opens doors to balancing work and adventure across the world. The tourism attractiveness index is like your roadmap, guiding you on combining remote work with some globetrotting. 

But first, let’s define what exactly the tourism attractiveness index is. This metric assesses how appealing a country is to travelers. While it may seem like it is all about vacations and sightseeing, it’s closely related to the possibility of remote work. 

The destinations that rank high on this index draw tourists and offer an attractive environment for professionals who seek a work-life balance. With visitor-friendly visa policies and a focus on economic benefits, these countries have become magnets for both travelers and digital nomads. The connection between tourism appeal and remote work potential is now strikingly clear.

Among the top-ranking countries in the GRWI report for high tourism attractiveness are the USA, Japan, Spain, France, Germany, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK, and Australia. These locations offer not only stunning landscapes but also reliable digital infrastructures. 

Countries like Denmark and the Netherlands ranked 1st and 2nd in the overall GWRI and respectively 6th and 4th in tourism attractiveness, may not be the first choice for some because of the high cost of living or weather. If, for example, the prospect of a gloomy winter doesn’t align with your work-travel aspirations, there are sunnier alternatives to consider. Spain, ranked 4th in the overall GWRI, and Portugal, ranked 6th, are obvious choices. Also, there is always Italy, Croatia, and even Singapore, which are equally compelling options.

Countries with the highest tourism attractiveness index

The ease of communication: a map of English proficiency 

Effective communication is an essential pillar for remote work. It serves as a bridge that connects remote team members and fosters collaboration and productivity. In this context, English language proficiency is particularly significant, and, as cliché as it may sound, it can be the lingua franca for any international company. 

Let’s now examine the distribution of English language proficiency in the world’s highest-ranking countries. We can categorize them into three groups, each reflecting slightly varying levels of English command. 

The first group comprises English-speaking countries, including the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Jamaica, and Ireland. Unsurprisingly, they all have the highest proficiency levels, owing to their native status.  

The second group, represented by the Netherlands, Singapore, Austria, Norway, Denmark, and Belgium, shows a moderately high level of English proficiency. Living in these countries without speaking their native language is far from challenging. English is widely spoken and understood, facilitating communication, a luxury not always available in non-English speaking regions, such as France.

Finally, in the third group, we find countries such as Sweden, Finland, and Portugal with a somewhat lower proficiency level. Though their English command may not match the first and second groups, these destinations still play a key role in the global remote work landscape.  

This categorization emphasizes the importance of English proficiency in remote work and gives a glimpse into linguistic capabilities across these diverse nations. A strong grasp of English is valuable for individuals and companies seeking to expand their horizons and offer better job opportunities.

English proficiency worldwide

The cost of living index: comparing top and bottom countries

In a world where global mobility is at an all-time high, understanding the cost of living index is crucial. It can impact the choices digital nomads make. This metric quantifies the average expenses associated with maintaining a certain standard of living, such as housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and more. It helps compare the affordability of different countries. 

When we look at the top three countries from the global GRWI, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany, we discover varying living costs. For example, Denmark (94) has a high cost of living, but at the same time, it also offers excellent internet quality, e-infrastructure, healthcare, and work-life balance. 

Similarly, the Netherlands (85), while relatively expensive, provides personal rights, an inclusive culture, and robust digital and physical infrastructure, making it an attractive choice for remote workers. Germany (79), though also slightly pricey, excels in cyber and economic safety, especially in healthcare. Thus, despite the higher living costs, it remains a good option for digital nomads. 

If your primary concern is the cost of living, you'll find Pakistan, Egypt, and India to be your top choices. These countries offer the lowest living costs according to the GRWI, making them budget-friendly options. However, if you want both affordable living and a good quality of life, Portugal, Poland, and Slovakia are excellent picks. These countries combine affordability with higher overall GRWI ratings, ensuring a better remote work experience.

Before you decide where to work remotely, it’s essential to thoroughly research the cost of living in your desired destination. Comprehending tax laws and implications in your chosen country is equally important, as lower living costs may sometimes correlate with higher taxes. This knowledge can help you make informed decisions about where to live and work, contributing to a more balanced and cost-effective lifestyle.

Healthcare havens for remote workers

A reliable healthcare system, encompassing vital elements like health insurance, medical readiness, and the quality of healthcare services, influences an individual’s well-being, especially if they have been living abroad for a long time. 

For remote workers, health insurance serves as a safety net. It offers financial protection in the event of unexpected medical expenses. And it’s a crucial component of personal welfare, especially when working in a foreign country. On the other hand, medical preparedness means having access to emergency services and being aware of medical facilities and healthcare professionals.

When it comes to healthcare, not all countries are equal. Some excel in providing quality medical care and maintaining strong health systems. So, which countries have outstanding healthcare, according to the GWRI? The top performers include:

  • Sweden, Norway, Denmark

  • USA

  • Iceland

  • Belgium

  • Germany

  • UK

  • Canada,

  • New Zealand

They offer healthcare accessibility, quality, and coverage, making them favorable destinations for digital nomads. 

Top countries with excellent healthcare systems

Social safety around the globe: a fundament for well-being

Social safety covers physical safety, personal rights, and inclusiveness. Consequently, it’s a buzzword and a critical aspect of the remote work experience. A high social safety score indicates that a country excels in preventing crime, fostering social inclusiveness, and protecting individual rights.

Within this category, we find essential components such as safety from crimes, equity and human rights metrics assessments, and the degree to which a country protects individual rights. 

Let’s now dive into the GWRI report findings regarding social safety. 

Social safety dynamics

What places dominate the social safety ranking? Mainly, they are Nordic and European countries, such as Switzerland (1st), the Netherlands (2nd), Iceland (3rd), Norway (4th), and Finland (5th).

However, the distribution of the social safety rankings in the GRWI is really interesting. The only non-European countries with high scores on the social safety scale are Japan (10th), South Korea (12th), and New Zealand (14th). 

As we just stated, the GRWI report reveals that countries ranking high on social safety tend to exhibit low crime rates, promote social inclusivity, and establish mechanisms for safeguarding human rights. This creates a nurturing environment for remote workers and ensures their physical and social welfare.

Top 5 countries ranking high in social safety

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are countries like Cameroon (101st), Guatemala (100th), Mozambique (95th), Saudi Arabia (105th), Bangladesh  (107th), and Uganda (106th). Although they may be interesting tourist destinations, their performance in the inclusiveness sub-category is less than ideal.

Physical safety

Interestingly, when it comes to safety from crimes, the leaders are the Gulf Bay countries, such as the United Arab Emirates (1st), followed closely by Qatar (2nd) and Oman (3rd). Switzerland (4th) and Armenia (5th) also make it to the Top 5, demonstrating their commitment to safeguarding visitors and travelers. Japan and Slovenia, known for their low crime rates, secure their spots in the 6th and 7th positions, respectively. The Top 10 is closed by Bahrain (9th) and Georgia (10th).

However, it’s worth mentioning that some Western European countries, such as Sweden (64), Belgium (65), and France (74), have relatively low rankings in physical safety. While these countries may have a high standard of living, they face specific safety challenges that impact their rankings. 

In contrast, according to the GRWI, Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, and South Africa are the least safe countries.

An overview: the best destinations with the best economic and social safety

Choosing the right remote work destination isn’t only about a stable Wi-Fi connection. It is also about finding a place that offers both economic and social safety and high quality of life. Let’s summarize the best countries that emerged as prime locations in this blog post. 

  • Canada: known for its beautiful landscapes and friendly communities, Canada combines economic safety with a high quality of life. It offers reasonable healthcare and strong English proficiency, making it an attractive option for remote workers.

  • Australia: Australia boasts a high standard of living. Its diverse landscapes and outdoor activities make it an enticing destination. However, the cost of living can be relatively high, so financial planning is crucial.

  • Germany: Germany stands out for its economic safety and cultural experiences in Europe. With a good balance of cost-effective living and strong healthcare, it's an appealing choice for remote workers looking to explore Europe while maintaining financial stability.

  • New Zealand: with breathtaking landscapes and a strong healthcare system, New Zealand is a good choice. While it may not be the most budget-friendly option, its quality of life and tourist attractions compensate for it, making it a great location for remote work.

  • Spain: Spain offers a blend of economic safety and a vibrant culture. It's known for its sunny climate, delicious cuisine, and affordability. While English proficiency can vary outside major cities, it's a top choice for those seeking a Mediterranean work-life balance.

  • Portugal: combining economic safety and scenic beauty, Portugal has gained popularity among remote workers. It offers a lower cost of living compared to many Western European countries and ranks well in terms of healthcare accessibility.

  • Sweden: with strong economic and social safety measures, Sweden offers a good environment for remote work. Its stable economy, efficient healthcare system, and commitment to individual rights create an attractive destination for remote professionals seeking a high quality of life and work-life balance.

  • Denmark: the winner of the 2023 GRWI is ideal for remote workers. It has good English proficiency and ranks well in economic safety. The living cost is rather high, but it balances with economic stability, a great healthcare system, and a high quality of life. Denmark is also an inclusive country that protects the rights of individuals.

  • The Netherlands: known for its high English proficiency, the Netherlands is a convenient destination for remote work. It offers economic safety and an efficient healthcare system. While the cost of living may be relatively high, the quality of life is impressive.

  • Austria: Austria combines a stable economy and excellent healthcare, making it a reliable destination for remote workers. It may not be as cost-effective as some other options, but its economic safety contributes to a fulfilling lifestyle. 

These countries demonstrate diverse options for remote workers, each offering a distinctive combination of economic and social safety and lifestyle. The choice ultimately depends on your individual preferences and priorities.

Conclusions: the interplay between safety and lifestyle

As the Global Remote Work Index report (GRWI) confirms, economic safety and social safety have an essential impact on a balanced remote work experience. Our guide covers top countries for remote work in terms of tourism attractiveness, English proficiency, the cost of living, healthcare, inclusiveness, and personal rights, helping you to make an informed decision. Start your journey to a better work-life balance with the insights from the GRWI report today.

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