Work Life Balance Canada vs US

Hi All

This question is for people who have experienced both USA and Canada working culture and work life balance. I have heard many people with such experience say that work-life balance is better and people are more relaxed. I would like to unpack that a bit and understand that.

Assuming, we are talking about similar sized companies, do you think the better work-life balance is because the management actively encourages people not to work weekends or long hours? Or is it that working long hours is so unheard of in Canada working environment that management just assumes nothing is going to get done over weekend, unless people are explicitly asked to work longer hours for 1-2 weekends due to critical deadline?

In silicon valley / bay area start up culture, it seems to me that putting in whatever work is required and spending whatever time is required to meet the deadlines is the default assumption. Is that not how it is in Canadian startups? I know that in EU (Germany, Netherlands, etc), it is illegal to make an employee work more than X amount of hours, but I don’t think that is the case in Canada. So seems like Canada lies somewhere in between EU and US regarding work-life balance. I am trying to understand exactly what drives Canadian work life balance.

@panditji @avj @usa2can @ntn @am1 @mrandmrs

Based on my experience working for both US and Canadian employers, I think employees here work fewer hours than in the US. I worked in the US for three different companies (including a giant big name Silicon Valley tech company) before moving to Canada and here I work for a Canadian company in downtown Toronto. From my own experience and what I have heard from friends, generally, its not normal to work on weekends, unless you are specifically asked to work by your employer. Also special situations like on-call support is an exception. I have heard people in consulting working on weekends to meet deadlines on projects. But generally working on weekends on a regular basis is not the norm as far as I know.

There are labour laws regarding how many hours an employee can be made to work:

Another thing I felt different here in Canada is that when you take time off, it doesn’t feel like your employer/team is doing you favor, rather it feels very normal to take three weeks off in a year. In US anything over two weeks off is usually a stretch.
Personal experiences may vary.

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Thanks am1.

I am not sure if the Ontario regulations mentioned above apply to SW Engineers. I think it does not, based on below federal government page. Thoughts?

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@vijay4454 I don’t know if it applies to software engineers either, I assume it applies to most employments. I could not find any mention of software engineer in the link you posted, I may have missed it.

Also in Canada, officially at least, software engineer is not considered a professional “engineer”, which is what they mean when they mention engineer in government documents generally.

I suspect that there isn’t much of a difference in the work cultures and most likely the difference isn’t going to be significant.

There is likely a selection bias in what you’ve heard from people, for example on this forum most people for different reasons wanted to move from the US to Canada and it’s quite likely that they had a somewhat negative experience in the US and the Canadian experience has been better. You don’t hear from people who like and want to continue to living in the US and numerically that is a much bigger portion of the population.

That said, I will share my personal experience. In the US I worked for a big multinational company, I’d been working for that company for a really long time and had gotten used to the rhythm and my work day was almost always between 9-5 or 9-6 (including the time to commute). Very rarely, once or twice a year I had to work longer hours when there was a deadline or serious production issues which needed to be resolved in a time critical manner.
This wasn’t always the case, in different teams, over the years the work life balance was different. Some of it was in part due to the team culture, the others was in part due to my career ambitions at a particular time. For example, between 2015 and 2016 when I was working towards a promotion, I put in more hours than I normally did before and after.

In Canada I work remotely for a Silicon Valley startup, my work hours again are between 9-4 or 9-5 (this doesn’t include commute time as there is no commute) and in the 6 months or so I’ve not had to work longer hours. That said, I do see some activity on Slack from a few individuals late at night or on weekends. I simply ignore that unless I’m specifically tagged and it’s an urgent production issue.

So even though this is only a few data points, I think work life balance isn’t a country thing. It’s a company thing and more specifically each team has it’s own sub-culture. Depending on where you work, and what boundaries you set you will end up with a different work life balance or imbalance.

All that said, the one significant difference that you could put in the work life balance column is not having to worry about immigration and making contingency plans. After moving to Canada, I have not a single time had to think about policy changes, visa issues. This for me adds balance and peace of mind.


Thanks panditji for your response!

I totally buy the argument in your last paragraph. Immigration worries disappearing has a huge affect on work-life balance!

Good points overall. I shouldn’t be expecting a better work-life balance just because it is Canada, not the US. Make sense. However, I feel the same is not true if I were to move to Europe (say, Germany) due to very different work culture and legal regulations.