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Lawrence ranked sixth best metro area for work-life balance, according to new report


Lawrence residents, if you could put those Pina Coladas down and put a towel around those Speedos for a moment, I have some news: You're doing a great job of not working as hard as residents in many other places.

And that's a good thing, according to the latest report that lands Lawrence on some national list. Lawrence is the sixth-best metro area in the country at balancing work and life, according to the personal finance Web site NerdWallet.com.

The report analyzes a handful of Census numbers to come up with a list of places where residents manage to have decent careers yet aren't chained to their office desks. (Do not get chained to your office desk, especially in a Speedo. A conversation with HR will ensue.)

The study measures such things as median weekly hours worked, mean travel time to work, and median earnings for full-time workers.

Apparently college communities have the market cornered on having a good work-life balance. All five of the communities ahead of Lawrence are college towns. Perhaps we're just naturally laid back, or perhaps college towns have an advantage in the ranking system because the median weekly hours worked in a college town is often going to be lower than other places because of the number of students who are part-time employees.

Regardless, here are the top five: 1. Corvallis, Ore. 2. Ames, Iowa 3. Ithaca, NY 4. Bloomington-Normal, Ill 5. Champaign-Urbana, Ill

In case you are wondering, Lawrence's median weekly hours worked is 34.4 hours. (You can get a pretty good suntan in the 5.6 hours that all those other schleps are working.) Of the top 10 communities, that was the third lowest total — which for the purposes of this ranking, is good.

In terms of mean travel time to work, Lawrence's is 19.5 minutes per day. That ranked Lawrence as the second highest among the top 10, and probably is a sign that we're a bit more of a commuter town than the other communities.

The more interesting numbers are in the earnings category. The median for male, full-time, year-round workers was $43,249. That ranked Lawrence No. 8 out of the top 10 communities. Female full-time workers earned $36,408. That was good for No. 7 of the top 10 communities.

The folks at NerdWallet ranked 20 communities in all. Lawrence was the only city in either Kansas or Missouri to make the list. You can see the complete list here.

Now, feel free to return to what you were doing. But think about leaving the towel on — at least in the office.


LJ Whirled 4 years, 10 months ago

Lack of full-time jobs is not "balance".

nick_s 4 years, 10 months ago

I agree. While I am not forced to work in another town, the prospects of finding a good paying "career" in Lawrence is slim to none. I have two Business degrees from our wonderful university, yet have to drive either to the East or West to find decent work. Were I to desire hourly jobs w/no benefits I would have a hay-day in Lawrence, but those arent going to pay my student loans, provide me insurance & a retirement package, & insure my success down the road. This ranking is fine & dandy, but I dont think it gives an accurate portrayal of the true work life of Lawrencenians.

jimmyjms 4 years, 10 months ago

Agree with both of these comments. Finding quality employment in Lawrence is nearly impossible.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

"but those (hourly jobs w/no benefits) aren't going to pay my student loans, provide me with insurance & a retirement package & insure my success down the road".

When exactly did it become the obligation of someone else to provide those things to you? Maybe you ought to use one of those business degrees to, you know, begin a business, when you can provide all those things for yourself.

nick_s 4 years, 10 months ago

I apologize that I dont have the capital to start a business to employ myself. What you are suggesting is that every person who attends college should not expect to find gainful employment unless they create the position for themselves? I dont believe it to be that far fetched that one with a college degree should be seeking these kind of incentives. In fact, they are generally the standard for individuals with a college degree. I would think that educated people as myself, who have paid their tuition to the university in this town, would be just the kind of people that Lawrence would want to stay, & work, & spend their money, & buy a home, & increase the tax base, but apparently not. I thought I was "providing all of those things for myself" by seeking a higher education instead of being satisfied with the lower wage jobs that generally come with no post-secondary education. Aww man, are you telling me my high-school counselors lied to me?

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

Maybe they didn't lie to you as much as the economic landscape has changed. Those entering the job market today are entering a very different marketplace than their parents did, who themselves entered a different marketplace than their parents.

I assume that if you're entering the job market today, you're ready to change jobs many times between now and the time you retire. That's something my grandparents would never have envisioned.

But here's the deal, if you do think your high school counselors lied to you, get used to it. Putting yourself at the mercy of corporations in a very competitive marketplace will almost guarantee that you will be lied to, again and again. Don't take it personal, it's just business. Or, you can strike out on your own. Follow your passion. If your passion is food, then open a restaurant. If you love working with wood, become a cabinet maker. If it's flowers, open a florist. Whatever. Borrow the money, open that store. If it's truly your passion, you'll never work a day in your life. Or you can work for "the man" the rest of your life and hope your retirement will be fully funded, or that the CEO doesn't take your benefit package with him when he cashes in his golden parachute. Then again, maybe you aspire to be that CEO. Obviously, I don't know you. I wish you well in your job search. Perhaps you'll consider another path than the one your counselors suggested, if for no other reason than what they told you then might not be true today.

nick_s 4 years, 10 months ago

Ha ha, I know, that was a joke. I realize that the marketplace is different even from 10 years ago. While I do have a good job, I have to drive a town over for my employment. I realize that my desire to work in Lawrence is a want, not a need, & that if I lived in a major metro area I could spend just as much time if not more driving across the city I lived in as I do driving from Lawrence.

I would love to own my own business, as that was my intention when getting a business degree, however it is not just that easy. One needs a good idea, a solid business plan, good credit, & collateral for a bank loan, just to receive funds, or have wealthy parents, ha ha. I worked for a small moms & pops business throughout college & moved into a general manager capacity after I graduated & from that experience I am not sure that I do want to own my own business. The room for advancement just isn't there in smaller companies. While salary isn't my main motivation, financial stability & the ability to stand on my own two feet are a huge motivation, which are hard to accomplish living in Lawrence. It is difficult for anyone coming out of the university in this town to find a job & stick around. Im trying, as I like Lawrence & would live no other place here in Kansas, but man its not easy.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 10 months ago

The first business I owned, I came to own it in a interesting way. I had been working there for a couple of years when the owner decided to sell. I made him an offer that if he would sell to me over time, we would structure the deal such that if I didn't fulfill my obligations, he could repossess the business and keep everything I had paid to him until that time. It was a five year plan. If say after 4 years I defaulted, he could take the business back and keep all the payments I made. I practically lived there, with all the bills a business ordinarily has in addition to the payments to purchase. But after 5 years, it was mine. No banks, no collateral, no business plan. Just a very strong motivation to succeed.

Of course, what helped me was that I worked there for a couple of years, so he knew me and trusted me. Really, I have no idea if opportunities like that are common or not. Once I owned that business, buying a second and then a third was easy, considering I started those from scratch, but with much the same concept as the first. Interestingly, as I got older and decided to downsize, I sold one business in much the same way I bought the first. Anyway, good luck.

nick_s 4 years, 10 months ago

Want to sell me a business on loan for 5 years? I would say your experience is the exception & not the norm, but I applaud you for your hard work. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time makes all the difference. However, had you not put yourself in that position to begin with, you could have just as easily been stuck in the rat race. I continued with my post-secondary education to do the same as you did, open doors to a better future, its just hard in Lawrence.

When I think about it though, Lawrence doesnt have to court businesses & firms to come & play ball in Lawrence. We've already shown we will live here, buy our expensive homes here (sometimes double what one would pay in Topeka, or parts of KC), & spend our money, then drive to work. There is no incentive for the city to work to foster the kind of environment that would bring solid employers here. They get our taxes regardless & dont have to do the leg work.

gatekeeper 4 years, 10 months ago

No, opportunities like that are NOT common. You lucked out.

Yes, the job market has changed, but not that much. I've been in my professional field for almost 20 years and have had to commute to KC to find good employment for 15 years. I've lived in Lawrence for almost 25 years and there has never been a good employment opportunity here. Lots of bad jobs is all this town has to offer.

Richard Payton 4 years, 10 months ago

Is full time employment classified as 40 hours a week or 30 hours a week. The ACA states it's 30 hours a week so at 34.4 hours a week is any employee earning overtime?

Carol Bowen 4 years, 10 months ago

Many insurance companies use the same criteria.

Success 4 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if you asked working parents of young children if they can find child care or if what they find is affordable. I baffled that this article says nothing about what systems make up a healthy work / life balance. This article in the Atlantic nails it in my opinion. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/the-masculine-mystique/309401/

kernal 4 years, 10 months ago

How many quality of live surveys and reports are out there for U.S. cities? Hundreds? Thousands?

Anyone else notice the top five are also university towns?

Gary Denning 4 years, 10 months ago

I must question the validity of the poll. Corvallis isn't even the nicest college town in Oregon. That would be Eugene.

Carol Bowen 4 years, 10 months ago

Lawrence is an employee ghetto. Always has been. That's why so many people commute.

Matt Schwartz 4 years, 10 months ago

How much did the city of Lawrence pay for this?

Sue McDaniel 4 years, 10 months ago

Once again, this is due to the lack of decent jobs and the fact that only Profs, Drs, and Lawyers, Administrators at various companies, Accountants and a very few others that are very lucky make enough to live here. Everyone else commutes.

nick_s 4 years, 10 months ago

When I think about it though, Lawrence doesnt have to court businesses & firms to come & play ball in Lawrence. We've already shown we will live here, buy our expensive homes here (sometimes double what one would pay in Topeka, or parts of KC), & spend our money, then drive to work. There is no incentive for the city to work to foster the kind of environment that would bring solid employers here. They get our taxes regardless & dont have to do the leg work.

Katie Dennis 4 years, 10 months ago

HAHA what the heck? I have a college degree and work 2 jobs and barely squeak by. The median wage in this town compared to the cost of living is ridiculous! Lawrence may have a work life balance because you can hardly find a full time job with benefits!

nick_s 4 years, 10 months ago

I hear ya. Two business degrees from our wonderful university, a day job that I commute to, & an hourly weekend job on Fri & Sat eve (have the hourly job here in Lawrence of course) just to barely have a little money left over at the end of the month for entertainment/expendible items & retirement. Better than living in Topeka though. Lawrence's new motto, "At least its not Topeka."

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

"life/ work balance"

That's nice and all, but in most cases it boils down to getting to work less and constantly struggling to have a acceptable life.

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