Congressional staff unhappy with work-life flexibility

Although U.S. House and Senate staff members find a balance between work and life valuable, 26 percent say they are content with the flexibility given to them, according to Life in Congress: Aligning Work and Life in the U.S. House and Senate, a research report released by the Congressional Management Foundation and the Society for Human Resource Management.

However, in a separate SHRM survey, 33 percent of those in the private sector say they are happy with their work-life balance. Fifty-five percent of congressional respondents believe work-life flexibility is very important as opposed to 38 percent of private-sector respondents. Congressional respondents are made up of 55 percent Democrats and 43 percent Republicans. Seventy-two percent of these respondents are employed in the House of Representatives while 28 percent work in the Senate.

“We’ve seen in the private sector that workplace flexibility not only improves employee satisfaction but it reduces staff turnover and increases productivity,” says Lisa Horn, co-project director of SHRM’s workplace flexibility initiative. “Like their counterparts in the private sector, Capitol Hill staff members value flexible work options. Congressional staff — and Congress itself — would benefit from access to flexible workplace practices, including flex time, telecommuting and more choices about how they manage their time.”

Among congressional respondents, 38 percent say they would leave their jobs for positions that allow a greater balance between work and life. Still, 75 percent of congressional respondents report that the meaningfulness of the jobs is very important. Only 35 percent of private-sector respondents agree.

“This research paints a picture of a dedicated work force,” says Bradford Fitch, CMF president and CEO. “Congressional staff values an office culture that helps them be more effective and consistently report that they want to make a meaningful contribution to society.

The most important work factor for congressional respondents is overall office culture, as reported by 79 percent of congressional respondents. For private-sector respondents, only 41 percent say they are satisfied with their office culture.

Of congressional respondents in Washington and district and state offices, they report working more than 40 works per week. In fact, when the House and Senate are in session, Washington respondents work an average of 53 hours per week. Despite this, 33 percent of congressional respondents say they typically do not have enough time to finish all of their tasks, and 28 percent say they have so many responsibilities that they cannot do everything well. 

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