Is That Flexible Workplace Coming to Capitol Hill?

The White House Summit on Working Families rolled out a big-ticket list of speakers Monday — POTUS, FLOTUS, VPOTUS, among them — to put the “national spotlight” on such an “important issue.” Sounds like some fantastic phrases, but what does this mean for YOU, hard-working Hill staffer? The answer, it seems, is not much. The White House’s proposals include a presidential memorandum that directs all federal agencies to implement existing workplace flexibility initiatives and institutes a new “right to request” flexible work policy. But lest Hill staffers start thinking the premium on office face time just plummeted, the memo isn’t likely to change the culture on Capitol Hill. It only covers the agencies within the executive branch — not the legislative branch. Scott Mulligan, deputy executive director with the Office of Compliance, notes that generally it’s up to Congress to decide what benefits it provides its employees. And if Congress wants to see a change in workplace culture, it could start by passing a workplace statute that includes its own workers or by modifying the Congressional Accountability Act to incorporate the new law. Congressional staff — like most workers in this country — are searching for a better work-life balance. According to a joint survey from the Congressional Management Foundation and Society for Human Resource Management, 38 percent of congressional staff cited the need for a better work-life balance as a reason for leaving Congress. (That number was as high as 55 percent among Washington-based press/comms staffers. Tough job, indeed.) Staffers cited burnout and not having enough time to get work done as a reason for job dissatisfaction, and many felt the quality of their work suffered under the stress of a large, inflexible, workload. A more flexible workplace is a win for our country’s workforce. But the people who write the nation’s laws should reap those benefits, too. Let’s hope increased flexibility for government workers has a positive ripple effect for everyone, including those who work in the House and Senate office buildings.