Members of Congress Work 70 Hours a Week — But Think It's Worth It

Mar 12, 2013

Members of Congress Work 70 Hours a Week — But Think It's Worth It

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 12, 2013 — Members of Congress work an average of 70 hours a week when in session and most of their workweek is devoted to legislative and constituent responsibilities — not political activities, according to a report released today by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF).

“Life in Congress: The Member Perspective,” is the first examination of how members of the U.S. House of Representatives spend their time and view the daily activities, challenges and motivations of their jobs.


A press briefing on the report will be at 10 a.m. Eastern Time this morning in the Grand Canyon Room, second-floor conference level, Hyatt Regency, 400 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001. It is also available by conference call. Contact SHRM Media Relations (703-535-6260) or Susie Gorden of CMF (202-546-0100) for details on how to connect.

“This report paints a picture of life as a member of Congress somewhat different than the one usually portrayed to the public,” said Bradford Fitch, president and CEO of CMF and report contributor. “Members seem to be energized by their work, reporting that they are devoted to public service and are motivated by their contributions to society.”

The research showed that, on average, House members spend 35 percent of a typical week on legislative/policy work when Congress was in Washington, 32 percent on constituent services work when in the district, and 17-18 percent on political/campaign work at all times. Members reported reducing their work hours on average to 59 hours a week during district work periods or congressional recesses.

The report is based on a survey conducted of 25 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and is augmented with focus groups, interviews and data collected by the CMF during its 35-year history of working with Congress.

When asked about the performance of their staff, most members responded positively. Ninety-five percent said their staff understands and is motivated by what their office is trying to accomplish.

“Like other CEOs, members of Congress need the best people,” said Mike Aitken, SHRM’s vice president of government affairs. “They view a strong staff as invaluable resource to serving the needs of constituents.”

The research also showed:

  • Members rated “Staying in touch with constituents” as being the aspect of their job most critical to their effectiveness, with 95 percent rating it as very important. Overall, 85 percent of members were satisfied with this aspect of their jobs.
  • A majority of members rated the following aspects highly in importance and in satisfaction:
  • “Feeling that you are performing an important public service” (84 percent very important; 89 percent satisfied);
  • “Feeling invested in the work you are doing” (84 percent very important; 89 percent satisfied);
  • “Understanding how your job contributes to society as a whole” (75 percent very important; 90 percent satisfied).
  • While 68 percent of members cited “Spending time with family” as very important, only 16 percent were satisfied with this aspect, giving it the lowest satisfaction rating among all 25 job aspects studied.
The report is available online at

This is the second in a series of three SHRM-CMF research reports about Life in Congress. The first report, released in October 2012, showed that U.S. House and Senate staff members value flexibility in managing life and work issues, but most were not satisfied with the flexibility afforded them. A third report to be released later in 2013 will examine the job satisfaction and employee engagement of staff members.

SHRM has a multiyear workplace flexibility initiative to provide education, research and resources to employers and employees on work-life practices and programs. For more information, visit SHRM’s Workflex Resource Page.

Media: For more information, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Affairs at 703-535-6260 and or Susie Gorden of CMF at 202-546-0100 and Congressional sources also are available for interviews.

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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