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Balancing act: Study: Provo-Orem, Logan areas boast better work-life balance

Published: Tuesday, July 23 2013 8:30 a.m. MDT

Consumer website NerdWallet ranked both the Provo-Orem and Logan areas among the top 20 cities in the nation for work-life balance, based on income, commute times and hours worked. What can we learn from these rankings?

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Cones, barriers and workers wearing orange vests and holding stop signs have taken up residence on many of the streets around my home, making attempts to travel almost anywhere a bit of a headache.

While slogging through my morning commute one day last week, I spent several minutes stopped at a traffic light. That might not seem unusual, except for the fact that the light was green. So much traffic was stacked up ahead of me, due to construction, that I couldn't move forward.

However, even on the worst construction days, my commute rarely takes more than 35 minutes, and most days it's closer to 25. (I'm bound to have a few hour-plus commutes during snowstorms in the winter, but hey, it's Utah.)

And if I still feel like whining about my commute, I just remember that one of my wife's sisters, who lives in Los Angeles, regularly spends more than an hour on the road to get home from work. Talk about a traffic nightmare.

As anyone who has faced such an exceptionally long commute can tell you, those extra minutes (or hours) in the car on the way to and from work can have a serious impact on a person's work-life balance. Time stuck in an interstate parking lot will cut the number of hours a person can spend at either work or home — usually home.

NerdWallet understands that, which is why it considered commute time as a major factor when building its recent list of metro areas in which residents have the best work-life balance.

Relatively short commute times helped both the Provo-Orem and Logan areas make the top 20 on NerdWallet's list.

NerdWallet, a website that says it "empowers consumers to make better decisions about their personal finances, travel plans, health bills, or higher education," used U.S. Census data about various cities to produce work-life balance scores based on the answers to three questions:

  • "Do people work reasonable hours?" This was based on median hours worked per week.
  • "Are commutes short?" The mean commute time for the various cities was used for this measure.
  • "Do people earn enough so they don't have to worry about money?" NerdWallet used the median earnings for full-time, year-round workers.
While no Salt Lake County towns made NerdWallet's list, the Provo-Orem area ranked 12th, and the Logan area was 20th.

According to the NerdWallet study, Provo-Orem's mean travel time to work is 21 minutes. Its median earnings for male, full-time, year-round workers are $51,525, and for female, full-time, year-round workers, $32,201. Median weekly hours worked are 34.3. Mix all of that together, and you get an overall work-life balance score of 69.2.

Logan's overall score was 67.1, based on a 17.2-minute commute time, $40,174 median earnings for men, $28,131 median earnings for women and weekly hours worked of 35.3.

The top-ranked city in the NerdWallet list was Corvallis, Ore., with an overall score of 78.3.

"The economy of Corvallis is robust, and Oregon State University, a major local employer, is located just downtown," the NerdWallet blog post about the study said. "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."

Next on the list was Ames, Iowa, with an overall score of 76.4. Again, Ames is a college town, home to Iowa State University.

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