Americans spend much of their day at work, and more than half of Americans rated their overall work environment poorly last year. Although the number of workers who gave their workplace a positive overall review is up to 48% from an all-time low of 47.2% in 2011, it has yet to recover to past levels of over 51%.
Of course, workers in different cities can have markedly different feelings about their jobs. According to the recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, San Luis Obispo, Calif., was the metropolitan area with the best work environment. The area with the worst work environment was Fayetteville, N.C.
To determine the best and worst work environments, Gallup surveyed hundreds of thousands of Americans in 189 metropolitan areas in the U.S. in 2012 and 2013. The Work Environment Index included four metrics: job satisfaction; whether employees felt they used their strengths at work; how employees were treated by their supervisors; and whether supervisors created an open and trusting work environment.
How workers were treated by their supervisors was perhaps the most meaningful indicator of a healthy workplace. According to Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, workers were far more likely to give positive evaluations to other elements of their jobs if they felt treated like a partner at work. As a result, the cities with the best work environments were largely those where workers most often felt treated like a partner.
In fact, seven of the 10 best cities for work also had among the 10-highest percentages of workers who felt treated like a partner at work. Workplace environments were also tied to other well-being measures such as emotional and physical health. "Emotional health gets better where work environment well-being is higher," Witters said.
But, he added, the relationship between emotional health and work environment is reciprocal. Emotionally healthy workers make more valuable employees and are more likely to be hired in the first place. In the cities where people most enjoyed work, residents were more likely to say they learned something new every day, a key measure of emotional health in the Well-Being Index. In the San Luis Obispo metro area, more than 73% of residents said they had learned something new or interesting in the past day, a higher rate than in all but three other metro areas nationwide.
The opposite was frequently true in poorly ranked cities, where workers were far less likely to feel they had daily learning opportunities. Witters also highlighted that a good work environment is often connected to better exercise and eating habits.
"Workplaces that advocate and promote high well-being lifestyles can have a very significant influence [on employees]," Witters explained. Simultaneously, "people who exhibit those healthier behaviors are more attractive for a workplace to hire."
For instance, all but two of the 10 best cities for work had smoking rates below the national rate, and just 11.1% of San Jose residents smoked, the second lowest rate in the nation. At the other end, residents in the nation's worst cities for work were more likely to smoke and practice other unhealthy behaviors.
In Charleston, W. Va., more than 34% of residents smoked, the highest percentage in the nation. Since answers to questions from Gallup's work environment index were provided by people who had jobs, the health of the areas' job market may not always have a huge impact on workplace environment well-being.
While six of the 10 highest rated cities had unemployment rates below the national rate as of December, four did not. In the Visalia, California metro area, the unemployment rate was 13.1%, nearly double the national rate of 6.7% that month. Similarly, among the worst rated cities, Charleston's unemployment rate was 5.4% — much lower than the national rate. While not a direct relationship, the health of the job market can affect workplaces.
For instance, the recession and constant daily layoffs has created stressful work environments overall and therefore also impacted workers with a job. In some cases, when it is harder find a job, "you'll see [some] supervisor-worker relationships erode, and suffer, as a result of that shifted power arrangement." Median income and educational attainment rates might be expected to have substantial effects on workplace evaluations, but that was not always the case. In several instances, respondents from relatively poor areas overwhelmingly approved of their jobs, while residents of wealthier areas were often likely to give poor assessments.
For example, in the Fort Smith metro area, located in Arkansas and Oklahoma, median household income was just $36,061 in 2012, but residents rated their workplaces fifth-best. Median household income in the Poughkeepsie, New York metro area, on the other hand, was $66,612 that year, but residents their rated their workplaces among the worst. According to Witters, this is due primarily to the weight a supervisor carries in determining the quality of a work environment.
If you have a bad supervisor, your work experience will be poor regardless of the level of your education and financial situation. Witters said, as your education improves, however, the kinds of jobs available to you are going to be different. For example, in "the low education, low income jobs, you're going to be more likely to be in a hierarchical arrangement — you're less likely to be in a role that requires you to be imaginative and creative and collaborative." Rather, "you're more likely to be in a role where you just need to take your orders and do what you're told to." To identify the best and worst cities for work, 24/7 Wall St.reviewed the metropolitan areas with the best and worst scores on the Work Environment Index, part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
he Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index assessed 189 metropolitan statistical areas. The Work Environment Index is one of five subindices included in the groups' overall score. The index measures workplace happiness for the U.S., states, metropolitan areas and occupations, based on answers to four questions.In addition to these figures, we also considered income, poverty and educational attainment data from the U.S. Census Bureau, all from 2012. Local, seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, current as of December 2013, are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are the cities with the most content and miserable workers.
Here are the best cities for work:
10. Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, Tenn.-Va.
> Work environment index score: 54.7
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 90.9% (49th lowest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 54.5% (2nd lowest)
> Pct. with college degree: 19.2% (75th lowest)
> Median household income: $37,769 (21st lowest)
Unlike some of the cities where workers are most satisfied, Kingsport area residents had low educational attainment rates, with slightly more than 19.2% of adults 25 and older having graduated college, considerably lower than the national rate. A typical household in the area also made just $37,769 in 2012, considerably lower than most other metro areas. Despite the low education levels and incomes, area workers had among the most pleasant work environments. Employees in the Kingsport metro area had among the best supervisors in the nation last year. Nearly 65% of survey-respondents felt their supervisors treated them like a partner, and 84.6% felt their supervisors created a trusting work environment, more than all but a handful of other areas reviewed.
9. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
> Work environment index score: 54.8
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 93.5% (11th highest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 68.4% (32nd highest)
> Pct. with college degree: 46.4% (10th highest)
> Median household income: $90,737 (the highest)
A typical household in the San Jose metro area earned more than $90,000 in 2012, more than in any other metro area in the nation. High incomes are likely the result of the strong presence of traditionally high-paying sectors. For instance, the professional, scientific, and management sector accounted for 18.4% of the area jobs, much higher than the sector's proportion of less than 11% of workers nationwide. Large companies such as Google and Apple are based in the area and provide lucrative job opportunities to area residents. Like a number of high-paying tech companies, both companies were listed on Glassdoor's Best Places to Work this year. Additionally, residents of the San Jose metro area, along with those of Washington, D.C., had the highest economic confidence in the nation, according to a recent Gallup survey. ALSO READ: States With the Highest (and Lowest) Taxes
8. Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Wash.
> Work environment index score: 55.0
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 93.9% (7th highest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 66.6% (49th highest)
> Pct. with college degree: 24.8% (173rd lowest)
> Median household income: $57,189 (54th highest)
Nearly nine in 10 respondents from the Kennewick region said they used their strengths at work last year, more than in all but four other metro areas. Supervisors in the region were also well-regarded, with 66.7% of respondents reporting their supervisor treated them like a partner last year, second-highest among all areas reviewed. Residents earned more than most Americans, with a median household income of $57,189 in 2012, compared to $51,371 nationwide. While the relationship to workplace satisfaction is unclear, a relatively large percentage — 8.4% of the workforce — was employed in the agricultural industry, more than four times the rate across the nation.
7. Roanoke, Va.
> Work environment index score: 55.1
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 91.2% (67th lowest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 64.1% (91st lowest)
> Pct. with college degree: 25.5% (182nd highest)
> Median household income: $46,974 (181st highest)
Unlike other metro areas with highly rated workplaces, supervisors in Roanoke were not as likely to create a trusting work environment. Less than 80% of respondents thought their supervisor did so in 2013, in-line with the average across all metro areas. However, this did not prevent residents from liking their jobs, with 90.5% of survey respondents reporting job satisfaction, among the best job evaluations among all metro areas surveyed. The job climate in Roanoke is also relatively good, with just a 5.4% unemployment rate in December last year, below the national rate of 6.7% that month.
6. Visalia-Porterville, Calif.
> Work environment index score: 55.3
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 93.9% (7th highest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 65.4% (65th highest)
> Pct. with college degree: 14.7% (12th lowest)
> Median household income: $40,302 (50th lowest)
The unemployment rate in the Visalia metro area was an abysmal 13.1% last December, considerably higher than the national rate of 6.7% that month. Meanwhile educational attainment rates were well below the national rate, with fewer than 15% of residents over 25 holding a college degree. Despite all this, survey respondents felt much better about their workplace than most metro areas surveyed. Respondents rated supervisors, in particular, very well, with 65.6% of residents saying their superiors treated them like a partner. Like several other regions with positively-reviewed work environments, the agriculture sector made up a large proportion of employment in the Visalia area, accounting for nearly 19% of the workforce, compared with just 2.0% nationwide.
5. Fort Smith, Ark.- Okla.
> Work environment index score: 56.4
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 91.5% (85th lowest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 59.2% (15th lowest)
> Pct. with college degree:15.8% (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $36,061 (9th lowest)
Residents of the Fort Smith metro area were more likely to say their supervisors provided a trusting environment than Americans anywhere else, with 88.2% saying so in the last year. Nearly 92% were also satisfied with their jobs, more than the vast majority of metro areas reviewed by Gallup. Job satisfaction, however, does not seem to be connected with high incomes in Fort Smith, where a typical household earned just $36,061 in 2012, among the lowest nationwide. Additionally, it did not seem to have much bearing on how people rated other elements of their lives. Fort Smith residents rated their present lives and their future expectations lower than residents anywhere else in the U.S. More than 17% of the workforce in Fort Smith were employed in the manufacturing sector, compared with slightly more than 10% of workers nationwide.
4. Naples-Marco Island, Fla.
> Work environment index score: 57.8
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 96.7% (the highest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 64.6% (80th highest)
> Pct. with college degree: 31.0% (88th highest)
> Median household income: $54,126 (81st highest)
Naples residents reported feeling less stressed than those in any other metro area reviewed by Gallup, with more than 70% reporting no stress during the majority of the previous day last year. Low stress levels in the area may be due to a healthy work environment and a relatively good job market. Nearly 64% of respondents thought their supervisors treated them like an equal, compared with just 56.6% nationwide. The area unemployment rate was less than 6.0% in December of that year, much lower than the national unemployment rate of 6.7%.
3. Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo.
> Work environment index score: 58.2
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 93.5% (11th highest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 71.8% (7th highest)
> Pct. with college degree: 44.7% (13th highest)
> Median household income: $55,890 (63rd highest)
Like many of the cities where workers are satisfied, residents of the Fort Collins metro area are well educated, with nearly 45% of adults 25 years and older having at least a bachelor's degree as of 2012. Much of the work in the area demands high skills and education. This may translate, for many residents, into intellectually stimulating work. Nearly 72% of residents said they learned something new daily, more than all but six metro areas. The area is home to a large number of high-tech manufacturers, as well as Colorado State University, a major research institution. Overall, more than 90% of Fort Collins respondents were satisfied with their jobs, among the highest rates in the U.S.
2. Lincoln, Neb.
> Work environment index score: 58.7
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 90.8% (43rd lowest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 69.8% (16th highest)
> Pct. with college degree: 35.9% (41st highest)
> Median household income: $50,668 (126th highest)
More than 91% of Lincoln inhabitants said they were satisfied with their jobs last year, the 12th-highest percentage in the nation. Additionally, nearly 64% of respondents felt treated like a partner at work, higher than in all but a handful of other metro areas. Like many of the cities where workers are satisfied, the area is home to a major research university. Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which spent a quarter-billion dollars on research and development in fiscal 2012 and had more than 8,000 employees as of 2013. The area's job market was excellent as of December last year, with an unemployment rate of just 3.3%.
1. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.
> Work environment index score: 59.1
> Pct. feel treated with respect: 92.7% (35th highest)
> Pct. learned something new that day: 73.3% (4th highest)
> Pct. with college degree: 33.5% (59th highest)
> Median household income: $60,264 (36th highest)
San Luis Obispo residents evaluated their work experiences better than residents in any other metro area. Nearly nine in 10 area residents were satisfied with their jobs last year. This may be due in part to the fact that respondents believed their lives were filled with interesting experiences and intellectual growth. More than 73% of respondents said they learned something new or interesting the previous day, more than in all but three other metro areas. Additionally contributing to residents' high ratings of their workplace, more than 88% said they utilized their strengths at work and more than 67% felt treated like a partner, both among the highest rates in the country. Workers were also relatively well-paid, with a median household income of $60,264 in 2012, well above the national median of $51,371 that year.