Minnesota nice! Midwest dominates list of best U.S. cities for work-life balance

GOLETA, Calif. — Work-life balance has been at the forefront of American society since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. It’s become an important topic in the space of mental health as burnout has become a major issue. A new survey is now revealing that where you live plays a pivotal role in balancing your job and personal life — with the Midwest emerging as the place to be! In fact, the survey finds seven of the top 10 cities with the best work-life harmony are in this region.

The research from CoworkingCafe set out to identify cities that offer the strongest foundations for both professional fulfillment and personal well-being. The evaluation looked at over 100 cities, each with a population exceeding 200,000, analyzing factors such as work hours, access to leisure and healthcare facilities, green spaces, air quality, income levels, financial strain, remote work adoption rates, and commute times.

Mid-sized cities in the Midwest emerged as the leaders in promoting a balanced lifestyle. Minneapolis, Minnesota, retained its top position from the previous year, showcasing strong performance across various metrics, including a notable improvement in local salaries’ purchasing power and a significant reduction in air pollution. St. Paul, Minnesota, followed closely behind, making an impressive leap from sixth to second place on this year’s list, thanks to shorter commutes and lower inflation rates.

Nebraska also has two cities in the top 10: Lincoln (3rd) and Omaha (9th). Filling out the top 10 includes Madison, Wisconsin (4th); Raleigh, North Carolina (5th); Columbus, Ohio (6th); Irvine, California (7th); Chesapeake, Virginia (8th); and Des Moines, Iowa (10th).

"Since the pandemic, we’ve seen an attitudinal shift and an increased focus on work/life balance. This momentum stems from the workforce seeking fulfilling, holistic experiences and demanding more autonomy to customize their jobs in ways that help them support their families, enhance their wellness, and nurture their mental health," says Dr. J. Gerald Suarez, a professor of the practice in systems thinking and Design at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, in a media release.

"Employers have responded by creating organizational initiatives such as financial support to improve employees' mental wellbeing. Companies are also calling attention to the importance of taking micro vacations and promoting frequent breaks during the workday."

On the other end of the spectrum, large cities in the Northeast fared worse in the work-life balance study. New Jersey had two cities in the bottom 20: Jersey City (84th) and Newark (97th). Baltimore came in at 88th, while New York City was 90th.

As remote work continues to shape the job market, the study's findings serve as a reminder of the evolving dynamics of work/life balance and the critical role of environmental and educational factors in supporting mental health and resilience.

Survey methodology

CoworkingCafe focused on U.S. cities with at least 200,000 residents that had data for all metrics analyzed. The total score was calculated using the following data points and weighting:

  1. Mental health – 40 percent of the total index
  2. Affordability – 30 percent of the total index
  3. Remote work – 20 percent of the total index
  4. Commute time – 10 percent of the total index

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