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Ireland’s best towns for work-life balance

A good work-life balance is key to a happy life so we’ve researched Ireland’s towns for local services, hybrid working, family life and leisure to find the best places to live and work.

The Work-Life Balance Act 2023 was brought in by the Irish Government last year, with the Work Place Relations Commission introducing a new Code of Practice regards remote and flexible working during 2024.

Roderic O’Gorman, a Minister of State says “The Work-Life Balance Bill represents a significant advance in workers’ rights in Ireland. It recognises the importance of family life and an improved quality of life for all workers by supporting employees to achieve a better balance between their home and work lives.”

The right to request remote and flexible working is now enshrined by law, which means hybrid and remote working is here to stay. Besides an improvement in the quality of life, a positive impact is you can now rent or buy a home to match your budget without the limitations of workplace location.

Our new Switcher.ie Work Life Balance Index (WLBI) looks at towns and cities across Ireland to find the top places to strike the perfect work-life balance.

What creates a great work-life balance?

A good work-life balance is essential for maintaining a healthy and happy life.

Finding the right balance between your professional and personal life is the goal, so reducing stressors like long commutes and school runs or high housing costs and boosting things that help you feel good like spending time outdoors, going to the gym or having a chat over lunch can improve the quality of life.

If you’re hybrid working you need fast, reliable broadband and mobile coverage, somewhere to take a break, keep fit or pop to shops; but you’ll also need good transport links for commuting.

If you have a family, you’ll want to be close to health services, schools and supermarkets and feel safe in your neighbourhood.

Factors we researched

Alongside house prices and crime rate, our research compared what’s on offer in each town.

The Work-Life Balance Index includes:

  • broadband speeds and 5G mobile coverage
  • sports facilities and leisure centres nearby
  • cafes and coffee shops nearby
  • major supermarkets nearby
  • green spaces such as national and public parks and gardens
  • primary schools and GP surgeries
  • proximity to major roads and bus stops

Check out the full Work-Life Balance Index 2024 here.

Ten best towns for work-life balance

It was a close-run race for a place in our top 10 best places for work-life balance.

Many towns have lots to offer young professionals and families, even though house prices are high in many areas. Some towns we surveyed ranked highly for all sorts of factors, including access to local amenities and nearby services to affordable housing and green spaces.

work life balance Castlebar

1. Castlebar

Castlebar, County Mayo takes the top spot in Switcher.ie’s Work-Life Balance Index and is officially our 2024 winner.

It’s a bustling town that offers a winning mix of leisure facilities, shops, cafes, good connectivity and plenty of green spaces.

With affordable housing, a low crime rate, and easy access to schools and health services - it’s a great place to balance work and family life.

2. Ballina

With the River Moy and Belleek Woods on its doorstep, the small town of Ballina in County Mayo offers the best of both worlds. Affordable housing, good local amenities, and accessible services set in such a lovely location make Ballina the perfect town to work and raise a family.

3. Longford

Longford is the cheapest place to live, with good access to schools, supermarkets, local services and leisure facilities. With excellent 5G and full-fibre connectivity, it’s an ideal place to live and work on a budget. However, the higher crime rate could make it less attractive for families.

4. Wexford

Tucked in the mouth of the River Slaney, Wexford is home to windswept, golden beaches, a bustling harbour and historical landmarks. Decent property prices, great shopping, transport networks and local services make Wexford a superb location to strike the perfect work-life balance.

work life balance Arklow

5. Arklow

A handy commuter town with Wicklow and Dublin easily accessible by road and rail. It boasts a good range of leisure facilities, supermarkets and schools, plus you’ve got sandy beaches and riverside walks to walk the dog or stretch your legs.

It’s one of the most affordable towns on the East Coast and attracts lots of young families due to its schools, recreational amenities and proximity to Dublin.

6. Wicklow

Despite the high house prices in Wicklow, the proximity to Dublin, coastal location and good local services make it one of the top places for quality of life. In 2022, 37% of the Wicklow workforce worked from home at least one day a week, higher than the national average and perhaps proof that it’s a great town to live and work.

7. Cavan

Set within drumlin hills and lakes, affordable housing and good family amenities put Cavan in the seventh spot. Residents are spoilt for sports and leisure facilities, though it’s less safe than many other towns in the survey.

8. Ashbourne

The satellite town of Ashbourne is a thriving and quickly growing town with all the facilities you need to live, work and raise a family in Ireland. Although just 40 minutes away from Dublin by car, it’s likely you’ll find everything you want in Ashbourne including a cinema and retail park.

work life balance Athlone

9. Athlone

Set in the heart of Ireland, alongside Lough Ree and astride the River Shannon, Athlone is the commercial capital of the Midlands. It has all the facilities you need to achieve the right work-life balance from shopping centres to a regional fitness complex and leisure centre serving the town.

10. Athy

Athy in County Kildare has a lot to offer home workers and commuters. One of the cheapest towns in the east, with good transport links to larger towns and cities it’s no surprise it’s one of the fastest growing towns in Ireland.

Best places for health, fitness and wellbeing

A good work-life balance can be achieved by making the most of remote working opportunities, but it’s easy to slip into a sedentary lifestyle without the daily commute.

To stay well in mind and body, it pays to keep active and enjoy the great outdoors whenever you can.

Top 5 towns for leisure facilities, parks and green spaces

To find our best towns for well-being, we counted the number of public and community sports facilities, leisure centres, national and public parks and gardens per 1,000 people in each town.

  1. Cavan
  2. Athy
  3. Ballina
  4. Ashbourne
  5. Killarney

Best places to live and work with a family

Ballina has taken the top spot for the best place to live and work with a family. Not only does it offer affordable housing, but it’s also a safe place to live and has great access to health services and primary schools.

Ireland family scenic

Top 5 towns for families

To calculate the best towns for family life and work balance, we summed index scores for house prices, crime rate, number of GP surgeries and nearby primary schools.

  1. Ballina
  2. Longford
  3. Castlebar
  4. Enniscorthy
  5. Cavan

Best places to shop and eat

The top place to pop out to the shops, grab a bite to eat or catch up with friends is Castlebar.

There’s a superb range of cafes if you want to pop out for a quick coffee or a cheap lunch and with a great choice of major supermarkets, the weekly shop couldn’t be easier.

Top 5 towns for shopping, cafes and cheap eats

To work out the top places to grab a quick bite we totalled all the major supermarkets in each area and counted cafes and coffee shops per 1,000 people in each town.

  1. Castlebar
  2. Wexford
  3. Athlone
  4. Arklow
  5. Wicklow

Best towns for hybrid working

If you’re lucky enough to have the choice to work at home or in the office, hybrid working is a great way to achieve a good work-life balance.

However, you’ll need the best of both worlds: a fast, solid internet connection and easy access to major routes or transport links for commuting.

Here’s our top 5 based on telecoms provision and transport network distances:

  1. Galway
  2. Carlow
  3. Mullingar
  4. Swords
  5. Balbriggan

Worst towns for broadband and 5G

Our research found that Ireland’s towns are well served by high-speed fibre broadband thanks to the rollout of SIRO and the National Broadband Plan (NBP). However, some towns are lagging behind and either missing out on 5G or waiting for full fibre to roll out in their area.

While most towns are now served by full fibre, some counties fared better than others and there may well be blackspots within towns. For example, some towns in County Dublin like Rush and Skerries experienced slower average internet speeds and fewer full fibre options.

To gauge mobile quality we looked at telecom networks offering 5G in each town and the quality of outdoor coverage. Kildare towns like Celbridge, Naas and Leixlip appeared to have a poorer 5G than neighbouring counties further west.

Cheapest towns to live and work

Longford was the most affordable town to buy a house in our study. House prices were based on the average house price in October 2023.

Top 5 affordable towns to live and work:

  1. Longford
  2. Ballina
  3. Cavan
  4. Letterkenny
  5. Sligo

Safest towns to live and work

Newbridge had the lowest rate of recorded crime per 1,000 people in 2022, giving it the top spot as the safest place to live.

Top 5 safest places to live and work:

  1. Newbridge
  2. Cobh
  3. Carrigaline
  4. Celbridge
  5. Greystones

Work Life Balance Map

Work-Life Balance Index 2024

Rank Town Work-Life Balance Index score Major s’markets Cafes Leisure facilities Green spaces Primary schools GP surgeries Crime rates House prices Route distances (Km) Broadband speed (Mbps)  
      Per 1,000             Averages      
1 Castlebar 7.526 0.31 1.00 0.31 0.38 0.77 0.69 63.81 €223,919 8.40 124  
2 Ballina 7.462 0.19 0.47 0.28 0.47 0.76 0.95 47.56 €201,166 8.40 149  
3 Longford 7.433 0.37 0.27 0.27 0.27 0.91 0.91 97.79 €176,721 8.10 204  
4 Wexford 7.244 0.42 0.47 0.33 0.28 0.70 0.42 62.81 €267,649 8.20 204  
5 Arklow 7.189 0.30 0.60 0.30 0.37 0.60 0.37 41.20 €289,460 6.80 192  
6 Wicklow 6.809 0.31 0.54 0.31 0.31 0.85 0.31 36.66 €425,771 6.80 177  
7 Cavan 6.765 0.26 0.43 0.51 0.34 1.19 0.43 108.85 €206,328 9.60 112  
8 Ashbourne 6.560 0.26 0.64 0.32 0.38 0.45 0.32 53.38 €355,307 7.10 172  
9 Athlone 6.495 0.26 0.79 0.31 0.31 0.53 0.22 66.86 €255,865 6.70 159  
10 Athy 6.163 0.27 0.63 0.36 0.45 0.45 0.36 69.14 €237,094 6.70 182  
11 Enniscorthy 6.114 0.16 0.24 0.24 0.33 0.65 0.81 65.15 €251,981 8.20 202  
12 Carlow 5.900 0.22 0.40 0.22 0.18 0.33 0.22 53.23 €253,705 7.80 229  
13 Gorey 5.893 0.26 0.43 0.26 0.35 0.43 0.26 74.24 €304,809 8.20 169  
14 Cobh 5.830 0.21 0.35 0.21 0.28 0.35 0.35 19.79 €304,103 9.30 172  
15 Mallow 5.763 0.22 0.37 0.30 0.22 0.45 0.67 67.48 €234,852 9.30 127  
16 Carrigaline 5.662 0.16 0.38 0.16 0.22 0.33 0.44 20.51 €374,707 9.30 205  
17 Clonmel 5.582 0.11 0.44 0.33 0.22 0.54 0.27 80.41 €237,376 12.00 196  
18 Tramore 5.379 0.09 0.44 0.27 0.27 0.36 0.27 39.02 €284,092 9.50 162  
19 Mullingar 5.235 0.13 0.22 0.18 0.13 0.27 0.44 73.15 €261,084 6.70 222  
20 Kilkenny 5.187 0.18 0.41 0.22 0.22 0.48 0.11 66.36 €316,236 10.80 188  
21 Tullamore 5.183 0.19 0.32 0.26 0.19 0.45 0.58 83.22 €255,873 11.10 138  
22 Tralee 5.157 0.12 0.38 0.23 0.19 0.42 0.38 78.49 €242,805 7.90 162  
23 Killarney 5.145 0.21 0.76 0.28 0.42 0.56 0.49 93.53 €314,829 7.90 122  
24 Midleton 5.122 0.22 0.36 0.29 0.22 0.36 0.43 62.28 €329,102 9.30 179  
25 Sligo 5.033 0.15 0.24 0.19 0.19 0.68 0.49 66.09 €220,603 4.80 146  
26 Swords 4.953 0.17 0.22 0.17 0.12 0.32 0.25 54.47 €411,204 3.90 204  
27 Newbridge 4.946 0.12 0.21 0.16 0.12 0.25 0.29 11.95 €369,370 6.70 191  
28 Balbriggan 4.890 0.16 0.21 0.16 0.16 0.21 0.16 66.94 €304,197 3.90 200  
29 Skerries 4.864 0.09 0.28 0.28 0.28 0.28 0.28 28.76 €501,705 3.90 191  
30 Maynooth 4.842 0.06 0.29 0.17 0.17 0.17 0.46 43.51 €444,687 6.70 204  
31 Greystones 4.835 0.14 0.41 0.18 0.18 0.18 0.23 24.63 €561,527 6.80 200  
32 Ennis 4.766 0.07 0.36 0.11 0.14 0.36 0.36 53.40 €272,570 6.90 171  
33 Galway 4.709 0.11 0.23 0.13 0.11 0.48 0.28 93.96 €357,766 2.20 204  
34 Dundalk 4.680 0.09 0.16 0.14 0.12 0.33 0.23 57.64 €277,674 6.00 199  
35 Leixlip 4.637 0.06 0.18 0.18 0.18 0.24 0.54 31.97 €444,687 6.70 221  
36 Portlaoise 4.628 0.13 0.30 0.17 0.13 0.34 0.30 135.78 €254,925 5.80 208  
37 Bray 4.535 0.15 0.36 0.21 0.18 0.30 0.30 40.40 €541,703 6.80 148  
38 Letterkenny 4.526 0.13 0.22 0.18 0.13 0.62 0.31 75.26 €207,001 22.20 193  
39 Navan 4.449 0.09 0.15 0.12 0.09 0.27 0.30 45.86 €337,242 7.10 198  
40 Naas 4.391 0.15 0.27 0.15 0.19 0.27 0.38 82.93 €403,386 6.70 211  
41 Rush 4.219 0.09 0.46 0.28 0.28 0.18 0.37 82.85 €408,881 3.90 122  
42 Portmarnock 4.130 0.19 0.47 0.28 0.28 0.28 0.28 94.40 €566,611 3.90 129  
43 Dublin 4.018 0.07 0.12 0.13 0.08 0.27 0.35 72.39 €505,997 4.30 192  
44 Celbridge 3.990 0.05 0.34 0.15 0.19 0.19 0.34 23.83 €444,687 6.70 215  
45 Waterford 3.966 0.13 0.22 0.17 0.10 0.33 0.20 63.78 €284,092 9.50 124  
46 Cork 3.960 0.07 .0.27 0.10 0.09 0.25 0.08 54.48 €347,363 1.80 197  
47 Laytown BMD 3.703 0.06 0.32 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.06 39.00 €314,597 7.10 189  
48 Drogheda 3.506 0.09 0.18 0.14 0.11 0.25 0.23 54.99 €314,597 6.00 199  
49 Malahide 3.417 0.05 0.38 0.22 0.16 0.22 0.32 39.50 €653,891 3.90 123  
50 Limerick 3.309 0.09 0.14 0.12 0.07 0.29 0.13 95.66 €285,572 6.20 120  

Methodology

To work out the best towns and cities for work-life balance we analysed a series of factors and scored them. The metrics included:

  • Broadband speeds
  • 5G mobile coverage
  • House prices
  • Distance to major roads and bus stops
  • Crime rates
  • Number of cafes and coffee shops
  • Number of major supermarkets
  • Number of national and public parks and gardens
  • Number of leisure and sports facilities
  • Number of primary schools
  • Number of GP surgeries

To create the index, we calculated the number of cafes and coffee shops, major supermarkets, national, public parks and gardens, sports and leisure facilities, primary schools and GP surgeries per 1,000 population in each town. We also collated median 5G coverage and average broadband speeds, house prices, distances to major roads and bus stops and crime rates for each town or city.

The Work-Life Balance Index score was derived by ‘normalising’ the data categories using the min-max method from 0 to 1. Towns with the most amenities per 1000 scored closest to 1 and least facilities closest to 0. House prices, broadband speed and crime rates were also normalised; most affordable homes, highest speeds and low crime rates scored closest to 1. The normalisation scores were then summed and ranked to create the Work Life Balance Index. The potential maximum index score was 10.

The data was collected and analysed in January 2024.

Sources

* Town or City population: F1015, Population, Census 2022 CSO.ie. Top 50 largest Irish urban agglomerations and census towns. * House prices: HPM08, 12 month rolling average mean in October 2023, CSO.ie. Eircode was used if town-level data was unavailable * 5G coverage: Comreg coverage map. The descriptive ratings were converted to 1-5, and the median rating was used for each area * Broadband speed: Ookla.com, speedtest.net. Q3 2023 Average broadband speeds. * Number of GPs in a town/city: HSE, Find a GP service * Number of supermarkets: Google maps - tagged as Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, Dunnes or SuperValu (Bard AI-assisted) * Number of primary school: Gov.ie - Schools Directory * Number of cafes: TripAdvisor - tagged Coffee & Tea, Cafe or Quick bites * Number of green spaces: Google maps - tagged as national parks, public parks or public gardens (Bard AI-assisted) * Number of leisure centres/sports facilities: Google maps - tagged as public, private or community leisure centres/facilities (Bard AI-assisted) * Crime data: CJA07, Recorded crime offences by Garda Station, 2022, CSO.ie. Last updated 29/12/2023. In cities with more than one station, all stations with an address in city centres were counted. Rush, Ratoath and Portmarnock did not have station-level data, so the nearest comparable station figures were used as a substitute.

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