These Are The 10 Best Cities In America To Achieve Work-Life Balance

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 3, 2015

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When it comes down to it, achieving a healthy work-life balance is really all about achieving a level of happiness in your life. Because that’s the goal at the end day, finding the right level of work that still allows you to enjoy the finer things in life.

Some people actually enjoy sacrificing a bit of their personal life in pursuit of their career. And some would prefer to get out on the town on Friday nights.

We’re going to focus on the latter type of people for this report — the cities that allow you to have an outlet for what makes you happy outside the office.

These cities from across the nation have an objectively strong work-life balance. They are the major cities where people have jobs, can live comfortably, and then enjoy things like family and friends.

We took a look at data from the most recent American Community Survey from the Census Department, and Yelp, to identify which of the 100 largest cities in America have mastered the art of not bringing work home with them.

After getting home early to put the kids to bed, we crunched the numbers and came up with this set of ten cities in the good ole US of A that have the best work-life balance:

  1. San Diego, CA
  2. Honolulu, HI
  3. Omaha, NE
  4. San Jose, CA
  5. Lincoln, NE
  6. Albuquerque, NM
  7. Anchorage, AK
  8. Oklahoma City, OK (tie)
  9. San Antonio, TX (tie)
  10. Virginia Beach, VA

So when it comes to achieving some level of twenty-first century zen, San Diego takes top honors.

Continue on for more details on how we developed this report and for more information on the top ten cities. If you want to see all of the data, head down to the bottom of the article.

How We Determined The Cities In America With The Best Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance conjures up some pretty stereotypical images in our mind — a person who enjoys going to work, but has enough time to follow their passion. And we say passion, we mean it could be a hobby, family, or whatever else brings them happiness.

With that in mind, we identified this set of criteria from the American Community Survey, and Yelp, that exemplify what it means to achieve work-life balance:

  • Commute time (Shorter is better)
  • Hours worked per week (Shorter is better)
  • Size of household (Higher is better)
  • Unemployment rate (Lower is better)
  • Poverty rate (Lower is better)
  • Things to do per capita (Higher is better)

Basically, if you don’t waste time getting to and from work, have plenty to do in town, and have a family, you’re on the road to work-life balance. It’s also important that a city offers people jobs that pay above the poverty line because 1/2 of work-life balance is work after all.

We then captured the above data for each of the 100 biggest cities in America.

Next, we ranked each place from one to 100 for each criteria, with one being the best in any given category.

Finally, we took the average rank across all criteria, with the place posting the lowest overall score earning the title “City with the Best Work-Life Balance in America”.

Read on to learn the specifics of the ten cities that have a job, but are probably at home relaxing right now.

1. San Diego, CA

Population: 1,322,838
Average Hours Worked: 38.1
Commute Time: 23

Well it only seems fitting that San Diego takes the top honors when it comes to allowing people to achieve work-life balance. Not only does the city boast a vibrant community, but everyday is, quite literally, a beach day.

The city of over 1.3 million people ranked above average across the board, but excelled when it came to things to do per capita — the Finest City ranked as having the fifth most things to do per capita .

The one thing San Diego could improve upon? Cutting back on the hours worked as it only ranks slightly above average for that criteria.

2. Honolulu, HI

Population: 340,639
Average Hours Worked: 38.5
Commute Time: 22

Continuing the sunny theme, Honolulu ranks as the second best city for work-life balance in America.

Counter to our expectations, and in contrast to San Diego, things to do were not a major factor in Honolulu’s ranking. Instead, it ranked highly due to an impressively low unemployment rate (2nd lowest overall) and poverty rate (13th lowest).

Additionally, the average hours worked for Honolulu ranked as more than average, so you can leave your stereotypes about not working in Honolulu at the door thank you very much.

3. Omaha, NE

Population: 422,499
Average Hours Worked: 38
Commute Time: 18

The first of two Nebraska cities to crack the top places for work-life balance in America is Omaha.

The largest city in Nebraska finished towards the top of the pack when it comes to average commute time (2nd overall) and unemployment rate (15th).

And while it lacks some of the amenities of the larger cities in the country, it still scored above average on things to do.

So maybe there’s a reason Warren Buffet calls Omaha home.

4. San Jose, CA

Population: 968,903
Average Hours Worked: 38
Commute Time: 26

San Jose comes in as the fourth best city for work-life balance in America, handily beating out its more famous neighbor to the north by over 40 spots.

The tech hub combines a low poverty rate (11th lowest) and plenty of time for family (11th) in order to secure its position in the top ten.

Where could the Capitol of Silicon Valley use some help? Finding a faster way to get to work as it ranks 68th overall in that category. So basically, all San Jose needs now is for Google to finish up that self driving car.

5. Lincoln, NE

Population: 262,365
Average Hours Worked: 37.1
Commute Time: 18

Taking the fifth overall spot on our list of the best cities for work-life balance in America is Lincoln.

Much like Omaha, the city boasts short commute times (2nd overall) and a low unemployment rate (8th lowest). And to top it off, the averaged hours worked per week is on the low side (20th).

Now, if there was more to do in town than visit the Frank H. Woods Telephone Museum, maybe Lincoln could have beaten out Omaha for bragging rights in Nebraska.

6. Albuquerque, NM

Population: 549,812
Average Hours Worked: 37.7
Commute Time: 21

We will try to refrain from making any breaking bad jokes as we acknowledge Albuquerque as one of the best places in America to achieve work-life balance.

The city of over 500,000 people scored solidly in most categories without necessarily dominating any. Albuquerque scored highest for average commute time, but is only the 20th shortest overall.

The biggest impediment to true work-life balance? Smaller than average family sizes. Get on that guys.

6. Anchorage, AK

Population: 295,237
Average Hours Worked: 40.8
Commute Time: 19

Anchorage ranks as the sixth best city for work-life balance according to our analysis.

The Last Frontier ranks well when it comes to having a job that pays a living wage as it has the fifth lowest poverty rate and 12th lowest unemployment rate of the cities we studied.

However, Anchorage needs to embrace the beauty around town a bit more, the city ranks as having the 3rd highest hours worked of any city in the country. So spend less time in the office and more time fishing; you know you want to.

8. Oklahoma City, OK

Population: 590,995
Average Hours Worked: 39.4
Commute Time: 20

The eighth best place to achieve work-life balance in America belongs to Oklahoma City.

Yet another mid-western city on our list, it shows how the cut-throat nature of the east coast makes it hard to really achieve happiness and its better to live in a place with low unemployment (9th lowest) and a short commute (15th best).

Mix in a good amount to do for a city of its size and it’s no surprise Oklahoma City ranks where it does.

8. San Antonio

Population: 1,359,033
Average Hours Worked: 39
Commute Time: 23

San Antonio is the only city to represent Texas on our list of the best places for work-life balance in America, finishing in a tie with Oklahoma City for eighth.

The Alamo city subscribes to the Albuquerque school of thought where it’s better to be middle of the pack for every criteria then shine in any specific one. But, if you’re going to score highly, no better criteria than things to do (15th overall).

How could San Antonio move up the list, spend a little less time in the office relative to other cities in the top ten.

10. Virginia Beach

Population: 442,151
Average Hours Worked: 40
Commute Time: 23

And rounding out the top ten best places for work-life balance is Virginia Beach.

We are christening Virginia Beach “The Zen of the South” due to its placement on this list; a honor it receives thanks to low unemployment (5th lowest) and poverty (3rd lowest).

And now excuse us as we get back to hanging out with the family.

List Of Cities For Best Work-Life Balance

For the full data set, click here.

City Population Work-Life Score Rank
San Diego 1,322,838 30.5 1
Honolulu 340,639 30.83 2
Omaha 422,499 32 3
San Jose 968,903 34 4
Lincoln 262,365 35.17 5
Albuquerque 549,812 36.33 6
Anchorage 295,237 36.33 6
Oklahoma City 590,995 37.5 8
San Antonio 1,359,033 37.5 8
Virginia Beach 442,151 39.17 10
Wichita 383,703 39.83 11
Lubbock 233,162 40.17 12
Madison 237,395 40.83 13
Anaheim 340,081 40.83 13
Corpus Christi 308,993 41.17 15
Austin 836,800 41.5 16
Raleigh 414,530 41.67 17
Des Moines 205,415 42.17 18
Portland 594,687 42.33 19
Seattle 624,681 42.33 19
Mesa 447,002 42.83 21
Las Vegas 591,496 43.17 22
El Paso 660,795 43.17 22
Fremont 218,172 43.17 22
Chandler 241,096 43.5 25
Minneapolis 389,112 43.83 26
Phoenix 1,473,639 43.83 26
Boise City 209,726 44 28
Chesapeake 225,597 44 28
Plano 266,740 44 28
Los Angeles 3,827,261 44.33 31
Tulsa 393,709 44.5 32
Baton Rouge 229,400 44.83 33
Reno 228,442 45 34
Columbus 800,594 45.17 35
Gilbert Town 215,683 45.17 35
Fort Wayne 254,435 45.33 37
Chula Vista 248,048 45.83 38
Scottsdale 221,283 46 39
Tucson 523,278 46.5 40
Fort Worth 761,092 46.83 41
Richmond 207,878 47.67 42
Pittsburgh 306,062 48.17 43
Fresno 500,819 48.33 44
Houston 2,134,707 48.33 44
Indianapolis 828,841 48.5 46
Charlotte 757,278 48.5 46
Milwaukee 596,459 48.67 48
Arlington 371,267 48.67 48
Sacramento 471,477 49.33 50
Riverside 309,150 49.33 50
St. Paul 288,802 49.5 52
San Francisco 817,501 49.67 53
Memphis 650,932 49.83 54
Dallas 1,222,167 49.83 54
Kansas City 462,378 50 56
Bakersfield 352,918 50 56
Hialeah 228,943 50.17 58
Aurora 198,726 50.17 58
Denver 619,297 51.5 60
Orlando 244,931 52.17 61
Rochester 210,624 52.67 62
New York 8,268,999 53.17 63
Durham 234,922 53.33 64
North Las Vegas 219,725 53.33 64
Yonkers 197,493 53.5 66
Paradise 221,638 53.67 67
Long Beach 465,424 53.67 67
Tampa 343,768 54.33 69
Modesto 202,629 54.33 69
Aurora 332,820 54.33 69
Fontana 198,692 54.5 72
Garland 230,177 54.83 73
Boston 629,182 55 74
Oakland 397,011 55 74
Buffalo 260,568 55.67 76
Cincinnati 297,150 56 77
Miami 407,526 56 77
Winston-Salem 232,219 56.5 79
Norfolk 244,090 56.5 79
Toledo 285,459 57 81
St. Petersburg 246,642 57.83 82
Glendale 230,047 58 83
Stockton 294,406 58.17 84
Arlington 214,861 58.33 85
Chicago 2,706,101 58.67 86
Detroit 706,663 59.17 87
San Bernardino 211,528 61.17 88
Philadelphia 1,536,704 61.33 89
Akron 199,038 61.67 90
Fayetteville 201,755 62.17 91
Cleveland 394,335 63.17 92
Washington 619,371 63.5 93
Birmingham 212,295 63.83 94
Atlanta 432,589 63.83 94
New Orleans 357,013 65 96
Baltimore 621,445 65.5 97
Jersey City 251,717 65.5 97
Newark 277,357 67 99
St. Louis 318,955 75.33 100

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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