Advertiser Disclosure

Best Places for Work-Life Balance

July 14, 2013
Home Search, Mortgages
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Everyone knows that Americans work a lot.  According to the United Nations, 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females in the US work more than 40 hours per week. NerdWallet wanted to learn where in the US people work hard but also have time for other things, as a healthy work-life balance can lead to reduced stress levels and increased life satisfaction, among other benefits.

Whether that means running everyday errands or spending quality time with friends or family, NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find in which metro areas residents have the best work-life balance.  To do so, we answered the following questions:

1. Do people work reasonable hours?  We included the median hours worked per week.

2. Are commutes short?  We included the mean commute time to see how long residents’ daily commute adds to their workday.

3. Do people earn enough so they don’t have to worry about money?  We included the median earnings for full-time, year round workers.

Check out our cost of living calculator for more city information.

 The Best Places for Work-Life Balance

1.    Corvallis, OR

The economy of Corvallis is robust, and Oregon State University, a major local employer, is located just downtown.  With only 33.4 hours a week worked on average, Corvallis residents use their ample leisure time to head to the world-class ski slopes nearby or enjoy the many art galleries and museums the city has to offer.

2.    Ames, IA

Ames is home to the Iowa State University, a major employer in the town.  The city also holds the National Animal Disease Center and the headquarters for the Iowa Department of Transportation.  The area’s robust economy, with state and federal institutions as well as several manufacturing plants, makes this place a great place to lead a balanced life.

3.    Ithaca, NY

Home to Cornell University, Ithaca has growing education and high tech industries.  Residents can enjoy the incredible natural wonders in Ithaca, including the nearby waterfalls and canyons.

4.    Bloomington-Normal, IL

With a commute under 20 minutes, high median salaries and under 40 hours worked on average per week, it’s clear that Bloomington-Normal is a great place to have a balanced life.  There are plenty of leisure activities in the area as well, including the Miller Park Zoo and the Constitutional Trail for those who like jogging or cycling.  State Farm Insurance is the largest employer in the town, and the company clearly values work-life balance.  They even created the State Farm Park as a recreational area for their employees.

5.    Champaign-Urbana, IL

Home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this area has plenty of parks as well as public transportation, making the city easy to explore.  The city has growing education and healthcare industries, and there are many theaters.  Residents can even attend the Roger Ebert Film Festival every April.

6.    Lawrence, KS

Lawrence has short commutes and a low cost of living, making this city a great place to work.  Many residents work at the University of Kansas, and the city is full of historical sites and museums to explore.

7.    Carson City, NV

Short commutes—only 16.6 minutes on average—mean more free time for Carson City residents.  Residents can go to nearby Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts and summer recreation in their free time.

8.    Mankato-North Mankato, MN

The area’s short commutes and low median hours worked per week mean residents get plenty of time to pursue their own leisure activities.  The Mayo Clinic (which has a Mankato branch) is one of the top employers in the area, and the city is home to Minnesota State Mankato as well.

9.    Boulder, CO

Although Boulder’s commute is longer than the other top cities, workers here earn a high median income and work an average of only 36.8 hours per week.  Boulder has hundreds of miles of paths for pedestrians and cyclists, making this a great city for outdoorsy people.

10. Grand Forks, ND-MN

Grand Forks residents enjoy a quick commute—only 14.6 minutes on average—and the area has plenty of attractions, including the North Dakota Museum of Art and Chester Fritz Auditorium.


Rank Metro area Mean travel time to work (minutes) Median earnings for male full-time, year-round workers (dollars) Median earnings for female full-time, year-round workers (dollars) Median weekly hours worked Overall work-life balance score
1 Corvallis, OR Metro Area 18.4 $51,380 $36,457 33.4 78.3
2 Ames, IA Metro Area 18.4 $46,143 $37,702 33.7 76.4
3 Ithaca, NY Metro Area 19.1 $49,295 $41,400 34.4 75.8
4 Bloomington-Normal, IL Metro Area 17.8 $55,815 $39,756 35.9 74.5
5 Champaign-Urbana, IL Metro Area 18 $47,338 $36,138 35.1 72.4
6 Lawrence, KS Metro Area 19.5 $43,249 $36,408 34.4 70.9
7 Carson City, NV Metro Area 16.6 $51,018 $40,489 37.4 70.8
8 Mankato-North Mankato, MN Metro Area 17 $40,860 $33,771 35.4 70
9 Boulder, CO Metro Area 22.3 $62,976 $46,826 36.8 69.8
10 Grand Forks, ND-MN Metro Area 14.6 $42,032 $32,640 36.8 69.6
11 San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA Metro Area 20.5 $52,162 $38,381 35.5 69.5
12 Provo-Orem, UT Metro Area 21 $51,525 $32,201 34.3 69.2
13 Iowa City, IA Metro Area 18.2 $44,442 $39,047 36.3 68.9
14 State College, PA Metro Area 19.5 $43,984 $34,396 35 68.4
15 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metro Area 24.4 $73,881 $54,458 38.4 68.3
16 Lansing-East Lansing, MI Metro Area 21.1 $48,266 $40,268 35.7 67.6
17 Ann Arbor, MI Metro Area 23.1 $57,335 $43,247 36 67.5
18 Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA Metro Area 19.4 $45,547 $40,093 36.4 67.4
19 Lewiston, ID-WA Metro Area 15.9 $42,214 $32,198 36.8 67.2
20 Logan, UT-ID Metro Area 17.2 $40,174 $28,131 35.3 67.1

Data was obtained from the U.S. Census