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Best (and Worst) US Cities for Work-Life Balance

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The boundary between work and home life has become hazy in the 21st century due to technological advances, particularly in the field of communications. Email, messaging apps, video calling and other platforms have provided access to most workers at all times. Even without these tools, long commutes and the pressure to work extended hours can have negative effects on your personal life.

Among the physical and emotional costs of being married to work are fatigue, poor health and lost time with loved ones, according to the Mayo Clinic. In a 2018 work-life survey report, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management also determined that employees who enjoy workplace flexibility and participate in health and wellness programs are more likely to exceed performance standards. Thus, an environment that’s more conducive to work-life balance might result in healthier, more effective workers.

To find out which cities are better at providing work-life balance for residents, GOBankingRates examined data from 105 U.S. cities with at least 100,000 workers ages 16 and older. Cities were ranked from best to worst across a number of variables, including the average number of hours worked per week and commute time, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau. For the cost-of-living index, cities were scored relative to the U.S. average of 100 by Sperling’s Best Places, with figures over 100 indicating greater expenses. Livability scores from AreaVibes incorporate a variety of factors, from crime and school quality to weather and amenities.

GOBankingRates’ study drew some interesting conclusions about regional differences in work-life balance. For example, a significant number of the best cities for work-life balance hail from the Midwest, whereas many of the biggest cities in America fall toward the very bottom of the ranking. And, nine out of the 25 worst U.S. cities for work-life balance are located in California and Texas. Reviewing the rest of this list might just help you take another step toward achieving work-life balance.

Last updated: Aug. 31, 2020

Best US Cities for Work-Life Balance

If a low cost of living, short commute time and great amenities form your idea of the perfect place to live, the U.S. cities at the top of this list might be your cup of tea. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the places that made the cut have smaller populations compared to the worst cities for work-life balance. However, you’ll still see some big cities where you can make the most of your career and enjoy your personal life at the same time.

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25. Santa Ana, California

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.3
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 25.1
  • Labor force participation rate: 67.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.5%
  • Livability score: 62
  • Cost-of-living index: 159.9
  • Median household income: $57,151

stellamc / Shutterstock.com

24. Fresno, California

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.1
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 21.6
  • Labor force participation rate: 61.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 11.1%
  • Livability score: 63
  • Cost-of-living index: 107.8
  • Median household income: $44,853

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

23. Greensboro, North Carolina

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 20.7
  • Labor force participation rate: 64.1%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.5%
  • Livability score: 67
  • Cost-of-living index: 88.4
  • Median household income: $44,978

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22. Reno, Nevada

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.1
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 19.5
  • Labor force participation rate: 67.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%
  • Livability score: 68
  • Cost-of-living index: 127
  • Median household income: $52,106

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21. Portland, Oregon

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.4
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 26.1
  • Labor force participation rate: 69.8%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.6%
  • Livability score: 66
  • Cost-of-living index: 147.8
  • Median household income: $61,532

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20. Cincinnati

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.2
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 22.6
  • Labor force participation rate: 65.7%
  • Unemployment rate: 10.4%
  • Livability score: 68
  • Cost-of-living index: 89.6
  • Median household income: $36,429

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19. Overland Park, Kansas

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 39.4
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 20.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 71.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7%
  • Livability score: 83
  • Cost-of-living index: 119.6
  • Median household income: $78,217

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18. Milwaukee

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 36.9
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 22.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 65%
  • Unemployment rate: 9%
  • Livability score: 58
  • Cost-of-living index: 90
  • Median household income: $38,289

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17. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.2
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 21.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 63.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 8.9%
  • Livability score: 66
  • Cost-of-living index: 99.5
  • Median household income: $40,948

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16. Richmond, Virginia

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.6
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 21.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 65.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 8.8%
  • Livability score: 76
  • Cost-of-living index: 102.5
  • Median household income: $42,356

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15. Pittsburgh

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.3
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 23.8
  • Labor force participation rate: 63%
  • Unemployment rate: 7%
  • Livability score: 72
  • Cost-of-living index: 94.2
  • Median household income: $44,092

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14. Fort Wayne, Indiana

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 20.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 66.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 7%
  • Livability score: 76
  • Cost-of-living index: 83
  • Median household income: $45,853

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13. Columbus, Ohio

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.1
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 21.6
  • Labor force participation rate: 70.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.3%
  • Livability score: 76
  • Cost-of-living index: 90.4
  • Median household income: $49,478

12. Omaha, Nebraska

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.5
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 18.7
  • Labor force participation rate: 70.1%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%
  • Livability score: 75
  • Cost-of-living index: 94.9
  • Median household income: $53,789

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11. Tucson, Arizona

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 36.6
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 22.2
  • Labor force participation rate: 61.8%
  • Unemployment rate: 9.4%
  • Livability score: 65
  • Cost-of-living index: 99.4
  • Median household income: $39,617

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10. Salt Lake City

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.9
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 19.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 71.1%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.6%
  • Livability score: 64
  • Cost-of-living index: 126.8
  • Median household income: $54,009

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9. Buffalo, New York

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 36.5
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 20.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 59.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 8.8%
  • Livability score: 63
  • Cost-of-living index: 82
  • Median household income: $34,268

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8. Des Moines, Iowa

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.2
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 18.8
  • Labor force participation rate: 70.7%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.5%
  • Livability score: 75
  • Cost-of-living index: 85.9
  • Median household income: $49,999

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7. Minneapolis

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.3
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 22.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 74.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 6%
  • Livability score: 62
  • Cost-of-living index: 116.4
  • Median household income: $55,720

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6. Lexington, Kentucky

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.7
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 20.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 67.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.1%
  • Livability score: 75
  • Cost-of-living index: 95
  • Median household income: $53,013

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5. Lubbock, Texas

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 16.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 65.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%
  • Livability score: 78
  • Cost-of-living index: 85.3
  • Median household income: $47,326

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4. St. Paul, Minnesota

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 36.6
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 23.7
  • Labor force participation rate: 70.7%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%
  • Livability score: 64
  • Cost-of-living index: 109.2
  • Median household income: $52,841

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3. Boise, Idaho

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.8
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 18.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 68.8%
  • Unemployment rate: 5%
  • Livability score: 80
  • Cost-of-living index: 106.7
  • Median household income: $54,547

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2. Lincoln, Nebraska

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.5
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 18.3
  • Labor force participation rate: 71.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.1%
  • Livability score: 80
  • Cost-of-living index: 95.6
  • Median household income: $53,089

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1. Madison, Wisconsin

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 36.4
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 19.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 72.1%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.1%
  • Livability score: 70
  • Cost-of-living index: 109.5
  • Median household income: $59,387

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Worst US Cities for Work-Life Balance

Places like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles may have reputations for being glitzy and glamorous, but when it comes to work-life balance, they all come up short. Horrific commute times and extraordinarily high living costs are common among the worst cities for work-life balance, and many also rank poorly in terms of livability. If you’re seeking a clear divide between work and your personal life, you’re better off avoiding these 25 cities.

Related: 101 Side Business Ideas and How To Start Without Quitting Your Job

25. Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 39.8
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 25.3
  • Labor force participation rate: 72%
  • Unemployment rate: 7.3%
  • Livability score: 72
  • Cost-of-living index: 106.7
  • Median household income: $58,202

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24. Fort Worth, Texas

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 39.8
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 27
  • Labor force participation rate: 67.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%
  • Livability score: 81
  • Cost-of-living index: 107.3
  • Median household income: $57,309

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

23. Corpus Christi, Texas

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 40.6
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 19.2
  • Labor force participation rate: 64%
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%
  • Livability score: 80
  • Cost-of-living index: 90.1
  • Median household income: $53,626

22. Los Angeles

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.8
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 30.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 66.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 8.1%
  • Livability score: 59
  • Cost-of-living index: 195.1
  • Median household income: $54,501

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

21. Stockton, California

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.7
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 29
  • Labor force participation rate: 59.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 11.9%
  • Livability score: 60
  • Cost-of-living index: 121.1
  • Median household income: $48,396

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20. Long Beach, California

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.2
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 30.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 65.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 8.2%
  • Livability score: 63
  • Cost-of-living index: 179.1
  • Median household income: $58,314

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19. Detroit

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 36.8
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 26.4
  • Labor force participation rate: 53.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 19.8%
  • Livability score: 57
  • Cost-of-living index: 94.4
  • Median household income: $27,838

18. Aurora, Colorado

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 39.2
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 29.3
  • Labor force participation rate: 71.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 6%
  • Livability score: 63
  • Cost-of-living index: 130.2
  • Median household income: $58,343

Read: 100 Ways To Make Your Money Last Until You’re 100

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17. Denver

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 39.7
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 25.3
  • Labor force participation rate: 71.1%
  • Unemployment rate: 4.5%
  • Livability score: 62
  • Cost-of-living index: 144.2
  • Median household income: $60,098

EddieHernandezPhotography / Shutterstock.com

16. Oakland, California

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.9
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 31.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 67.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 8%
  • Livability score: 55
  • Cost-of-living index: 201.2
  • Median household income: $63,251

CrackerClips / Getty Images/iStockphoto

15. Houston

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 40
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 27
  • Labor force participation rate: 67.7%
  • Unemployment rate: 6.6%
  • Livability score: 79
  • Cost-of-living index: 104.8
  • Median household income: $49,399

JMcQ / Shutterstock.com

14. Anchorage, Alaska

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 40.9
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 18.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 73.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%
  • Livability score: 51
  • Cost-of-living index: 137.1
  • Median household income: $82,271

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

13. Norfolk, Virginia

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 40.4
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 21.2
  • Labor force participation rate: 68.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 8.5%
  • Livability score: 69
  • Cost-of-living index: 99.9
  • Median household income: $47,137

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

12. Dallas

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 40.2
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 26.8
  • Labor force participation rate: 68.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 5.9%
  • Livability score: 75
  • Cost-of-living index: 107.7
  • Median household income: $47,285

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11. Atlanta

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 39.5
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 26.3
  • Labor force participation rate: 65.2%
  • Unemployment rate: 8.9%
  • Livability score: 63
  • Cost-of-living index: 115.4
  • Median household income: $51,701

10. Miami

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.8
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 28.1
  • Labor force participation rate: 61.8%
  • Unemployment rate: 8.1%
  • Livability score: 64
  • Cost-of-living index: 137.1
  • Median household income: $33,999

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

9. Baltimore

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.8
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 30.7
  • Labor force participation rate: 61.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 10%
  • Livability score: 60
  • Cost-of-living index: 96.8
  • Median household income: $46,641

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

8. Newark, New Jersey

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 37.2
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 35.5
  • Labor force participation rate: 61.9%
  • Unemployment rate: 14.8%
  • Livability score: 50
  • Cost-of-living index: 127.2
  • Median household income: $34,826

Checubus / Shutterstock.com

7. Philadelphia

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.2
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 32.9
  • Labor force participation rate: 59.6%
  • Unemployment rate: 11.3%
  • Livability score: 59
  • Cost-of-living index: 110.8
  • Median household income: $40,649

Pgiam / Getty Images

6. Chicago

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 38.7
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 34.6
  • Labor force participation rate: 66.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 9.9%
  • Livability score: 57
  • Cost-of-living index: 117.8
  • Median household income: $52,497

Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

5. Arlington, Virginia

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 42.1
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 28.6
  • Labor force participation rate: 78.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 3.2%
  • Livability score: 82
  • Cost-of-living index: 192.3
  • Median household income: $112,138

Bill Chizek / Getty Images/iStockphoto

4. Washington

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 40.1
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 30
  • Labor force participation rate: 69.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 8%
  • Livability score: 57
  • Cost-of-living index: 173.9
  • Median household income: $77,649

Sergnt / Shutterstock.com

3. Jersey City, New Jersey

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 39.4
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 36.8
  • Labor force participation rate: 68%
  • Unemployment rate: 7.3%
  • Livability score: 62
  • Cost-of-living index: 163.1
  • Median household income: $62,739

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

2. San Francisco

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 40.1
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 32.8
  • Labor force participation rate: 70.4%
  • Unemployment rate: 5.4%
  • Livability score: 68
  • Cost-of-living index: 304.7
  • Median household income: $96,265

Tzido / Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. New York

  • Average number of hours worked per week: 39.1
  • Mean travel time to work (in minutes): 40.8
  • Labor force participation rate: 63.5%
  • Unemployment rate: 7.8%
  • Livability score: 62
  • Cost-of-living index: 209.3
  • Median household income: $57,782

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best and worst cities for work-life balance by analyzing 105 U.S. cities with at least 100,000 workers ages 16 and older along the following criteria: (1) average hours worked per week, (2) mean travel time to work, (3) labor force participation rate, (4) unemployment rate, and (5) median household income, all sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey; (6) livability score, sourced from AreaVibes; and (7) cost-of-living index, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places. Each factor was scored, added up and ranked from best to worst. The average hours worked per week and mean travel time were weighted more than the other factors in the final scoring. All data used to conduct this ranking was compiled and verified on Sept. 17, 2019.