Worst US cities for work-life balance

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published September 4, 2019

Key Takeaways

Some cities in the United States are more conducive to achieving a proper work-life balance; others are less so. Previously, MDLinx gave you a list of the five cities that offer the best chances for achieving a good work-life balance. This time, we are giving you the five cities that are on the bottom of that list, with environments that are the least likely to lead to a good work-life balance for its residents.  

Again, we used data compiled by researchers at Kisi Office Security—keyless security experts based in Brooklyn, NY—who ranked US cities based on work-life balance scores reflecting the ease of achieving this balance for residents.

Forty cities throughout the United States were graded according to 20 considerations. Researchers identified those cities in which the importance of work-life balance was recognized and encouraged directly and indirectly, with policies and urban infrastructure.

The researchers calculated 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.

A brief breakdown of what comprised each of these categories/scores can be found here.

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

5. Indianapolis, IN

Overall score: 32.93

Indiana, the Hoosier state, annually hosts the Indianapolis “Indy” 500, the world’s largest single-day sporting event. Unfortunately, however, of the 40 cities ranked, Indianapolis came up in the fifth lowest spot of cities conducive to finding a good work-life balance. Although workers there start at 9:19 a.m., on average, and clock about 42.4 hours of work per week, the city was notably low in the number of paid maternal and parental leave days offered (0), as were the rest of the cities in this “Bottom 5 List.” The city also scored poorly in both outdoor spaces (36) and leisure score (52.5).

4. Houston, TX

Overall score: 31.52

Houston is the fourth most populous city in the United States and the eighth most expansive state. And although Houstonians generally seem to get a late start on the workday (9:56 a.m.), 15% of them work at least 48 hours or more per week. The state scored well on outdoor spaces (62.3), and had lower air pollution scores (9.1 vs 69.5 in New York City). In addition, its leisure scores were relatively high (67.2), but so was the unemployment score (4.3%). Although residents’ happiness score was high (91.7), its city stress score was also high (66.9). Gender and LGBTQ equality scores were fair (66.7 and 67.2, respectively), but the city’s healthcare score was only 58.7.

3. Atlanta, GA

Overall score: 30.93

Known for its peaches and wide, encircling city beltway, Atlanta is the 9th largest metropolitan area in the United States, and the 37th most populous city. Atlantans start their workday, on average, at 9:41 a.m., and work an average of 42.7 hours per week. However, 14% of residents work 48 hours or more per week, and they have no paid maternal or parental leave. Atlanta’s outdoor spaces score is 46.5 (relatively low), and its air pollutant score is 8.6 (relatively high). The city scored well in safety (83.2) and happiness (92.5), while its stress score was average (57.3), as was its leisure score (55.3).

2. Memphis, TN

Overall score: 30.67

Home of the Blues and the birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Memphis is the 26th largest city in the United States. This beautiful city is a historic and cultural gem among the cities of the United States and, especially the South. Residents start work at 9:27 a.m., on average, and work 42.4 hours per week. Like Atlantans, 14% of Memphians work 48 hours or more per week, and their leisure score was low (51.3). Outdoor spaces scored low (41.8) and pollution (7.7) and city stress scores (66.3) were relatively high, although worker happiness scores were also high (89.1).

1. Detroit, MI

Overall score: 29.65

Birthplace of Motown and the center of the US auto industry, Detroit is the second-largest Midwestern city, after Chicago. Unfortunately for Detroiters, their workday starts, on average, at 7:45 a.m., and 13% work 48 hours or more per week. Unemployment was at 4.3%. Residents’ happiness score was the lowest of all cities (85.4), and the city stress score—100—the highest. Gender and LGBTQ equality scores were good (68.1 and 66.7, respectively). Detroit’s outdoor spaces score, however, was low (50.5), as was its leisure score (50.8), while its pollution score was high (7.9).

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