Democrats and Republicans Agree—Workplace Flexibility Key to Job Satisfaction

By Rita Pyrillis

Oct. 25, 2012

While Democrats and Republicans spar over tax cuts and health care reform, congressional staffers from both sides of the aisle can agree on one thing—they want more flexibility to balance work and life issues, according to a study released Oct. 24 by the Congressional Management Foundation and the Society for Human Resource Management.

More than 1,400 House and Senate employees and 25 members of Congress participated in the joint survey, Life in Congress, which found that 55 percent feel that “flexibility to balance work and life issues” is very important, but only 26 percent are very satisfied with the flexibility in their own workplace. The survey did not break the numbers down along party lines.

That level of dissatisfaction is higher than that among private-sector employees, says Bradford Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, a not-for-profit organization focused on improving office operations and citizen involvement. According to the SHRM 2011 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, 38 percent of U.S. employees said that flexibility was very important and 33 percent said they were very satisfied with their flexibility.

Fitch says the survey, which was released at SHRM’s second annual Workflex Conference in Chicago, is the largest survey ever conducted of congressional staff. It’s the first of three reports looking at the work life of congressional staffers. The second and third will be released next year.

“People think of Congress as a monolithic bureaucracy, but Congress is made of 535 small business,” Fitch says, each with its own set of vacation and flextime policies. And employees face a unique set of challenges like pressure from constituents. According to the survey, staffers “must wrestle annually with hundreds of legislative issues, answer 25,000 [House] to millions [Senate] of constituent communications per year … and liaison with every level of government.” In order to accomplish all that, they must work long hours.

More than half believe that they work longer hours than their private-sector counterparts with similar jobs, the survey shows.

The survey points out another key difference between congressional and private sector employees when it comes to the level of commitment to their jobs. Nearly 75 percent of survey respondents rated “meaningfulness of their job” as being very important to them compared with 35 percent of U.S. employees who held similar beliefs, the survey says.

Rita Pyrillis is Workforce’s senior writer. Comment below or email

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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