Most Stressful Cities for Workers (2024)

Last updated: February 14th, 2024

Which cities in America are the most stressful for workers? We conducted an analysis of the 100 most populous cities across the country using key factors in order to create a ranking of the most stressful cities to work in.

For many of us, work dominates our daily lives – whether we’re navigating the rush-hour commute, clocking in at the office, or winding down after a long day.

In this whirlwind of responsibilities, factors like shouldering the sole financial burden, receiving inadequate compensation or benefits, or residing in unsafe environments can significantly amplify the stress experienced by American workers.

However, not all communities bear this burden equally, prompting us to explore: Which cities in America are most stressful for workers?

To assess work-related stress levels nationwide, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of stress-related factors within the 100 most populous cities.

Our analysis assigned weighted values to eight critical stress-inducing factors, including average weekly work hours, commute duration, the proportion of early commuters, accessibility to remote work options, prevalence of single-income households, income growth rates, uninsured employee rates, and each city’s crime statistics. The result is a holistic ranking of America’s most- and least-stressed cities to work in.

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Key findings

  • Detroit, Michigan, and Baltimore, Maryland take the top spots on our list of most stressful cities for workers, in part due to the glacial pace of year-over-year income growth. In comparison to the national average of 7.23%, Detroit (0.9%) and Baltimore (1.0%) lag significantly. 
  • Conversely, Miami (No. 6) boasts the highest year-over-year income growth of any city on our list (25%), but a long workweek (40.3 hours) and a long commute (29 minutes one-way) come with the package. 
  • Cities with the longest commutes: New York City, New York (40.7 minutes); Jersey City, New Jersey (37.4 minutes); Chicago, Illinois (33.5 minutes); Stockton, California (32.7 minutes); and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (31.5 minutes).
  • Least stressful cities for workers: For a less stressful workweek, consider flyover country or the northern corners of America such as Madison, Wisconsin (No. 1), Richmond, Virginia (No. 2), Boise, Idaho (No. 3), Buffalo, New York (No. 4), and Spokane, Washington (No. 5).

Stressful jobs aren’t clustered in any particular region in the United States, which indicates that workplace stress is universal. 

Nationwide, employed Americans commute for 52.8 minutes per day, work 36.4 hours per week, and one-in-ten (10%) of American employees are employed without insurance, while 31.2% belong to single-income families, 15.2% work remotely and 32.3% leave the house to commute before 7 a.m.

When compared to these national averages, several metrics in our list of top 5 most stressful cities fall short. Particularly, workweeks tend to be longer, commutes start earlier, and income growth is slower. No one variable pushes a city to the top of our list – each city presents a combination of disparities that contributes to a holistically stressful work experience.

Top five most stressful cities to work in

#1. Detroit, Michigan

Despite a desire to build and attract new business to the city, Detroit’s income growth is among the lowest on our list of cities, with only 0.9% year-over-year income growth, which is well below the nationwide average of 7.23%. Pair this with a high percentage of single-income households (45.4%), and the income burden in Detroit is significant. Detroit also has one of the highest crime rates, with an average of 2,049 incidents reported per 100,000 residents, which makes for a stressful environment for workers both in and out of the workplace.

#2. Baltimore, Maryland

Transitioning from an industrial stronghold to a world-class health, education, and technology hub is hard work, but Baltimoreans are up to the task. More than a quarter of the city (27.5%) start their daily commute before 7 a.m., and work an average of 38.7 hours weekly, which is 2 hours more than most of America (avg. 36.4 hours). Unfortunately, this hard work isn’t reflected in dollars – the city’s reported year-over-year income growth sits at 1.0%, and the crime rates (1,555 reports per 100,000 residents) remain high.

#3. Stockton, California

A significant agricultural hub located in California’s Central Valley, residents of Stockton, California, wake up early to make it happen. Over 1-in-3 (37.3%) Stockton workers leave the house for work before 7 a.m., and the average one-way commute is 32.7 minutes long, about 8 minutes higher than the national average. Remote work opportunities have stubbornly remained in the single digits (8.2%), and the crime rate is higher than its palm tree-lined avenues belie, with 1,163 criminal incidents per 100,000 residents reported annually.

#4. Houston, Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and if you’re in Houston, that means your commute is longer (27.3 minutes), your workweek is longer (37.7 hours), and the crime rate is higher (1,128 reports per 100,000 residents) than the national averages. Perplexingly, despite its pivot towards healthcare as an industry focus, 27.8% of Houston employees do not offer insurance benefits through their employer, which is almost triple the national average of employed, uninsured workers (10.0%).

#5. Aurora, Colorado

A satellite city of Denver, CO, residents of Aurora are overworked, underinsured, and have no idea where the snooze button is located. A longer-than-average commute (27.9 minutes) starts early in Aurora, with 39.4% of working residents beginning their commute before 7 a.m. Time logged at work comes to a whopping weekly average of 38.9 hours, and all that hustling doesn’t necessarily confer benefits – 16.2% of the city’s employees are uninsured.

Least stressful cities to work in

Shorter workweeks, later commute start times, salaries that keep pace with the economy, robust remote work opportunities, and insurance benefits are on offer in America’s least stressful cities for workers. 

Starting with the dreaded commute, every city on our top 5 list has a commute span that is at least 5 minutes shorter than the national average (26.4 minutes). Similarly, in each city, at least 5% fewer employees leave before 7 a.m. than the national average (32.3%). Every city except Spokane, Washington reports higher year-over-year income growth compared to the U.S. average of 7.23%, and remote work opportunities are easier to find in every market aside from Buffalo. 

#1. Madison, Wisconsin

Nestled between lakes Mendota and Monona, picturesque Madison’s work scene matches its serene, verdant environs. Residents of Madison are rolling in benefits (only 4.5% of full-time workers are uninsured), healthy salaries (9.5% year-over-year income growth), and luxurious, sleepy mornings (only 17.4% of the city’s workers leave the house before 7 a.m.). Meanwhile, 20.3% of employees work remotely, and the workweek is short, with the average employee logging only 34.9 hours weekly. Crime is scarce in the capital city, with only 297 incidents reported per 100,000 residents.

#2. Richmond, Virginia

Richmond has it all – beautiful riverfront trails, historic neighborhoods, and an above-average year-over-year income growth rate of 13.9%. Commuters in Virginia’s capital spend an average of only 20.7 minutes on the road, and a mere 20.5% of those commutes begin before 7 a.m. Moreover, over one in five (20.7%) employees work from home. With the average workweek lasting 36.5 hours, and only 8.4% of employed individuals remaining uninsured, Richmond is a clear choice for those looking to maximize their income and minimize their workday.

#3. Boise, Idaho

In recent years, Boise has emerged as a family-friendly city with excellent schools, safe neighborhoods, and tons of free outdoor recreation. Happy kids rely on happy parents, and working families in Boise are reaping the benefits of short commute times (19.4 minutes on average), options to work from home (17.2% of current roles are remote), and rapidly increasing salaries (year-over-year income growth is at 16.0%). In fact, Boise scores better than the U.S. average on every stress-contributing metric on our list.

#4. Buffalo, New York

Living in Buffalo is a whole lifestyle choice – you have to join a mafia (go Bills), eat your bodyweight in chicken wings and deal with the lake effect, but the city’s astronomical year-over-year income growth of 20.3% makes these things feel like minor formalities. On average, Buffalo residents work a 35.1-hour workweek, are almost universally insured (only 6.9% of residents are employed but uninsured), and only commute for 21.0 minutes each day.

#5. Spokane, Washington

You’ll have ample time to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and skiing in beautiful Spokane – residents boast a below-average 35.5-hour workweek and a below-average 21-minute commute. While 28.3% of commuters depart before 7 a.m., this figure still falls well below the national average of 32.3%, and if commuting isn’t your thing, 17.9% of the city’s workforce holds remote positions. With only 6.6% of workers lacking insurance and a relatively low crime rate of 670 incidents per 100,000 residents, Spokane is a safe bet for employees of all stripes.

Cities with the longest commutes

The positive effects of a short workweek can be dampened by a long, arduous commute. Across America, the average commuter spends 26.4 minutes commuting to work, one-way, but in New York City that daily drive looks more like 40.7 minutes. You can probably guess other longer-than-average commutes across the country – Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., which all make the top 10 list. 

Cities with the longest workweeks

Feeling overworked? This seems to be an appropriate question for Scottsdale, Arizona, which is home to the nation’s longest workweek. According to the Census Bureau, Scottsdale employees log an average of 40.8 hours weekly. 

Unfortunately, if you want to live near sun and sand, you might have to put up with the daily grind. Our list of longest workweeks is stacked with 4 cities in Florida, and of course, beautiful San Francisco. Emergent tech hubs like Denver and Atlanta keep long hours alongside our nation’s capital. Then there’s Anchorage; no matter if the days are shorter (or longer), there’s no getting around the 40+ hour workweeks.

If your employment non-negotiable is the ability to work from home, you may thrive in Seattle, Washington, where more than one-third (36%) of the labor force works from home. But if your top value is income maximization, you can do no better than Miami, Florida, where the year-over-year income growth sits at a staggering 25.01%. Of course, that pay rise in Miami comes with a frustrating commute (29 minutes one-way). And remote work in Seattle comes with a workweek that is nearly an hour longer than the national average. 

Work-related stress arises from an entire ecosystem of habits, expectations and market pressures. One dimension our study can’t measure is the personal aspect of stress, or how our own expectations and values significantly influence what makes us experience stress and why. 

The most stressful cities on our list are working on issues of public safety, health access and income stability – the presence or absence of which significantly increases basic stressors that would likely aggravate anyone. The least-stressful cities on our list exhibit a mixture of practical advantages that move beyond these concerns and towards questions of preference and perks. 

Habits and wellness routines can help alleviate how we react to stress. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), taking frequent breaks throughout the workday, tracking your stressors in a journal, establishing boundaries between work and your personal life as well as developing healthy responses to work stressors are all ways to avoid work-related stress. 

When the demands of work become overwhelming, pay attention to your body's signals and allocate moments for rejuvenation. Even brief breaks scattered throughout the day can make a significant impact in alleviating work-related stress.

Methodology

To determine our ranking, we analyzed 100 census-defined places with a population of 200,000 or more via the U.S. Census Bureau. We compared these cities across eight weighted variables: average hours worked per week, average commute time, percentage of workers who commute before 7 a.m., percentage of workers who are unable to work remotely, single-income families, year-over-year income growth rate, percentage of employees without health insurance and crime rate. The income growth rate was calculated via median household income from 2021-2022, which is the most recent data available. 

Each variable was graded on a 100-point scale. To determine an overall score, each city’s weighted average was calculated across all metrics. 

Work stress

  • Average hours worked per week: 20 points
  • Average commute time: 20 points
  • Percentage of remote workers: 10 points
  • Percentage of workers who start commuting before 7 a.m.: 10 points

Financial stress

  • Percentage of single-income families: 10 points
  • Income growth rate (based on median household income): 10 points

Health and safety

  • Percentage of employed workers without health insurance: 10 points
  • Crime rate: 10 points

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, American Psychological Association, FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, Pew Research Center 

Fair Use: Feel free to use this data and research with proper attribution linking to this study.

Media Inquiries: For media inquiries, contact [email protected]

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