Congressional Staffers Believe They Work Longer Hours Than Private Sector Workers

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By on October 24, 2012 in Current Events with 15 Comments

A new report has found that congressional staff believe they work longer hours on average than their counterparts in the private sector, and some say they feel the quality of their work is suffering as a result of their high workloads.

The report, Life in Congress: Aligning Work and Life in the U.S. House and Senate, focuses on how House and Senate staff manage work and life issues. It is based on a survey of more than 1,400 congressional staff members.

The report was conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • 56% of staff members believe they work longer hours than their counterparts holding comparable jobs in the private sector
  • Most staff members work more than 40 hours per week on average; the report indicated they work 53 hours per week on average when their chamber is in session and 43 per week when it is not.
  • A very high number (75%) of staff said that “meaningfulness of their job” is important to them
  • 33% of staff members feel they do not have enough time to perform the tasks assigned to them.
  • 28% of staff members said they feel the quality of their work is suffering under their workloads.
  • 55% of staffers said that “flexibility to balance life and work issues” is very important, but only 26% reported being very satisfied with this flexibility in their jobs.

“This research paints a picture of a dedicated workforce,” said 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.”

“We’ve seen in the private sector that workplace flexibility not only improves employee satisfaction, but it reduces staff turnover and increases productivity,” said 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.”

CMF and SHRM conducted the study because they believe there is very little reporting outside of Washington about congressional staff activity, and what information is seen is often negative and inaccurate. They believe that there are benefits to staffers and legislators as well as the public at large if Congress can improve its effectiveness and efficiency in addressing issues within its own workplace.

The goals of the report were twofold: it sought to identify factors that motivate employees in Washington and district offices, and it aimed to see what Congress is like as a workplace.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.