Top US cities for work-life balance

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published August 14, 2019

Key Takeaways

Achieving work-life balance can be difficult, especially if you’re a hard-working physician who logs many hours at the office or in the hospital. But—believe it or not—the city you live in could affect the difficulty or ease with which you reach this goal. Some US cities are more conducive to work-life balance than others.

To this end, researchers at Kisi Office Security—keyless security experts based in Brooklyn, NY—compiled a ranking of 40 cities in the United States based on their work-life balance scores, which indicate how easy work-life balance is to achieve for residents. They took overall work-life scores for each city and combined them with scores for society, institutions, and livability to come up with the rankings. Most scores were out of 100, with the highest being the best.

Here’s a breakdown of what comprised each of these categories/scores:

Overall work-life score was based on scoring factors that reflected how much time a person dedicates to their job, including total working hours, commuting, and vacation days taken.

First, researchers assessed work intensity, which was comprised of the following: arrival time to work, hours worked per week, whether the work-week involved 48 hours or more, minimum vacations offered, vacations taken, unemployment, paid maternal and parental leave (days), and commute times (one-way in minutes).

Next, the city’s society and institutions were evaluated based on how state residents were treated and which benefits they had access to. Factors that contributed to scores included social spending (percentage of GDP), healthcare score, and access to mental healthcare score. Did state residents have access to state-funded health and welfare programs? Is there community-wide support for gender equality? Is the community LGBTQ-friendly? The answers to all of these questions were factored in as well.

Finally, researchers assessed the livability score of each city. The goal was to assess the “enjoyability” of their surroundings after they finished working. Factors that affected this score included the city’s safety, happiness, and stress scores. Were there outdoor spaces available for recreation? How much pollution was there? How did residents fare on wellness/fitness assessments?

Forty cities throughout the US were graded according to the ranking system’s 20 considerations. Researchers sought to identify those cities in which the importance of work-life balance was recognized and encouraged residents’ work-life balance directly and indirectly with policies and urban infrastructure.

Here are the top five best cities in the United States for work-life balance, with some of the highlights of each city:

5. New York City

Overall score: 49.5

The “City that Never Sleeps” has a surprisingly good work-life balance. Believe it or not, the average New York workday starts at 9:25 a.m., and the average workweek is only 42.1 hours long. Only 14% of New Yorkers work 48 or more hours/week. They have the most paid maternal and parental leave days (180), but also a longer commute than the other top four cities—36.3 minutes—which is still not bad. Leisure score for New York was the highest (96.9), and surprisingly, its outdoor spaces score was almost as high as San Diego’s (75.8). Pollution score, however, was the highest of all the top five cities (69.5). Nevertheless, New Yorkers’ wellness and fitness score was high (78.3), as was their healthcare score (71.6). Gender equality (71.4) and LGBTQ equality scores (90.3) were similar to those of Minneapolis and higher than San Diego.

4. Minneapolis, MN

Overall score: 49.86

One of the “Twin Cities,” Minneapolis is known for its many trees, lakes, and cold weather. Although the city’s leisure score is relatively low (52) compared with others on this list, the average workday there starts at 9:38 a.m., and the average work week is only 41.8 hours. Minneapolis’s healthcare score is also well above the top three cities (77.1), and its access to mental healthcare score is pretty good, too (46.2). Minneapolis scored high in gender equality (73.5), LGBTQ equality (90.3.), and vacations taken (10.5), and its overall happiness score is high (94), as is its safety score (86).

3. San Francisco, CA

Overall score: 51.02

Residents of this picturesque “City by the Bay” worked just a few more weekly hours than those in San Diego and Portland (44), but the city’s leisure score was second only to New York’s (81.5), and happiness (94.7) and LGBTQ equality score (94) were higher than all other cities compared. San Fran also had high safety (84.4) and leisure scores (81.5). Healthcare (71.5) and wellness and fitness scores (78.8) were comparable to both San Diego and Portland.

2. Portland, OR

Overall score: 51.52

Portland is the most populous city in Oregon, and the second-largest city in the Pacific Northwest. Residents of Portland work an average of 42.2 hours per week. The happiness score in this beautiful city was 93.1, and its safety score was even higher than San Diego’s (87.6). Portland also bested San Diego in LGBTQ equality score (92.3), air pollution (5.5), and leisure scores (80.5), and was almost equal in healthcare (71.3), wellness and fitness (76.5), and outdoor spaces (75.1). The city stress score was 37, and like San Diego, only 14% of residents worked 48 or more hours per week.

1. San Diego, CA

Overall score: 54.82

Famous for its miles and miles of white, sandy beaches and beautiful year-round climate, San Diego is widely known as “America’s Finest City,” and for good cause. It was #1 on the 2019 Cities for the Best Work-Life Balance. Residents of San Diego work an average of 42.2 hours per week. Their happiness score was a whopping 94.3, safety was 87.3, LGBTQ equality score was 85.1, and healthcare was 71.5. Not surprisingly, the city also scored very well in outdoor spaces (76.5), wellness and fitness (78.3), and air pollution (8.8). Only 14% of San Diego residents worked 48 hours or more per week, and the city stress score was the lowest (33.7) of all cities included.

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