Congressional Staff Dissatisfied with Work-Life Flexibility, Survey by SHRM and CMF Shows

Oct 24, 2012

Unique look at Congress as a workplace shows that staff members are very committed to their jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 24, 2012 — U.S. House and Senate staff members value flexibility to balance life and work issues, but fewer than one in four is satisfied with the flexibility afforded them — a gap that is more pronounced than in the private sector, according to a research report released today by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

In a novel look at Congress as a workplace, the research report — “Life in Congress: Aligning Work and Life in the U.S. House and Senate” — showed that 55 percent of congressional staff members said the flexibility to balance life and work issues is very important. At the same time, only 26 percent of them were very satisfied with the flexibility provided in their work.

This compares to 38 percent of U.S. employees who said in the SHRM 2011 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey that flexibility was very important and 33 percent who said they were very satisfied with their flexibility.

The survey of more than 1,400 people who work in the U.S. House and Senate was released at the second annual Workflex Conference hosted by SHRM and the Families and Work Institute in Chicago. Download a copy of the report here.

SHRM educates private-sector organizations about the value that workplace flexibility brings to both employees and employers. That education will extend to Congress in 2013 when CMF and SHRM will offer specialized training to congressional staff members to assist them with aligning work and life issues. CMF and SHRM also will conduct additional research in 2013 to create case studies and identify best practices in workplace flexibility policies in House and Senate offices.

“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.”

When asked about reasons they would leave their work in Congress, 38 percent cited “seeking a better balance between work and personal life.”

The inside look at this unusual workplace revealed that congressional staff are very committed to their jobs. Seventy-five percent of the respondents said the meaningfulness of their jobs was very important to them (as opposed to 35 percent of U.S. employees).

“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.”

“Overall office culture” was the aspect rated as the most important to congressional staff. Seventy-nine percent rated it as very important. But in another gap, only 41 percent said they were satisfied with their office culture.

Congressional staff again differentiated themselves from other U.S. employees on the importance they place on office culture. Forty-six percent of U.S. employees cited overall corporate culture as being very important to their job satisfaction, with 27 percent very satisfied with their corporate culture.

The research also showed:

  • Congressional staff members (in Washington and in district and state offices) work more than 40 hours a week. Washington staff, for example, report working 53 hours a week when the House and Senate are in session.
  • Many congressional staff members believe that they don’t have enough time to perform assigned tasks. Thirty-three percent disagreed with the statement “I usually have enough time to get everything done.”
  • Many also feel that the quality of work is suffering under the workload, with 28 percent agreeing with the statement “I have too much to do to do everything well.”

Survey respondents included both Democrats (55 percent) and Republicans (43 percent). Seventy-two percent of the respondents worked in the House of Representatives, and 28 percent worked in the Senate.

This is the first in a series of three research reports about Life in Congress. SHRM and CMF will examine legislators’ views of their jobs in the House of Representatives in a second report in January. A third report to be released in March will reveal the job satisfaction of House and Senate staff members and what they value most about their workplace.

MEDIA: For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy at and 703-535-6260, or Susie Gorden at and 202-546-0100.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing about 260,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.

About the Congressional Management Foundation

Founded in 1977, the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping Congress and its members meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry. Its work focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training, and management services. Visit


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