The federal workday: Labor's love lost?

Do federal workers earn their pay?

That question arises every time Congress entertains another proposal to reduce the amount of money spent on the federal workforce. The question is both practical and accusatory: If feds are not working 40 productive hours, why not freeze their compensation or shrink the workforce by 10 or even 20 percent? Maybe then they’ll learn what real work is, the reasoning goes.

Many FCW readers were frustrated to see the question arise yet again, this time when the congressional supercommittee began searching for ways to slash the federal budget. A reader named Kyle put the issue front and center by suggesting that salary cuts would not be out of line because feds do not work nearly as hard or long as their private-sector counterparts.

The response — both pro and con — was predictably heated. Here is a summary of reader comments, which have been edited for length, clarity and style.

Get real

I am a federal employee with a work schedule of four 10-hour days. I worked an additional nine hours on Friday and so far today, Saturday, I am at four hours and counting. Overtime is not allowed at my agency. I can claim comp time, but since I can't even use all my annual leave every year, what is the point? So Mr. “Only 10 Percent of Feds Work,” you better check your facts before you make such a ridiculous statement!

— Underappreciated Fed

Not the point

Here we have it again. People have to show their worth by working more hours than they are paid for. People who typically work those hours usually don't have lives, have their priorities out of place and are incompetent. Any boss who measures performance by how long a butt sits in a chair should not be a boss. The most productive people are those who deliver during their prescribed work time and then take care of the rest of their lives.

— Tom K

Whose fault is it?

I used to do payroll for an agency of 150 employees. Due to personnel cuts, I saw that several employees were working extra hours to get the job done. When I pointed this out to the director, he issued a memo stating that "all employees will punch out within 30 minutes of end of shift." They didn't care that employees were voluntarily working extra hours.

— HarleyLar, Washington state

Too true

Feds waste more than they work. It’s a given. Most of my career was in the private world, and there is nothing harder to do than transition to the feds. As a taxpayer, I am very upset. We are one office, and the waste in here is in the millions. Makes you wonder about the rest of the feds.

— Anonymous

Remove one of four employees from their jobs. I see at least that many every day doing nothing. Hire people with experience who are willing to work. All I see hired are friends and relatives who then play games on the computer.

— Anonymous

About the Author

John Monroe is Senior Events Editor for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, where he is responsible for overseeing the development of content for print and online content, as well as events. John has more than 20 years of experience covering the information technology field. Most recently he served as Editor-in-Chief of Federal Computer Week. Previously, he served as editor of three sister publications:, which covered the state and local government IT market, Government Health IT, and Defense Systems.

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Reader comments

Tue, Oct 22, 2013 MH NE

I don't know where these other feds are working but in our fed office we work hard and get the job done. We also make good use of telework. Our top achiever works mostly through telework. I agreee there can be slackers anywhere, both in private and federal work, but those who say all federal workers are not working have got it wrong. Maybe come of the comments are not from individuals. Matbe some of the comments are from political action groups using this forum to spread their beliefs.

Mon, Sep 16, 2013

Productivity is had to measure. It depends on the type of job you have. How do you measure my time on the job when the solution to a problems comes to me while I'm home cutting the grass?

Fri, Oct 12, 2012

An employee who works more hours than what they are paid for is stealing someone else's job.

Fri, Sep 14, 2012 Louisville, KY

I am a Federal worker. Federal employees really have it made. Some come to work whenever they want to and leave eary--then brag about doing their 6 hour days. Don't get me started about teleworking. Telework is truly overrated. If the Government did some checking they would find that it is truly a waste. They (this office) doesn't work when they are in the office, so what make one think they will perform at home. This time is used for appointments, having things done at their house so they won't have to take leave. The Government is losing money just by having to pay for sick and annual leave which is saved by not having to use it. The Government should take a serious and careful look at teleworking; at the amount of money being spent for people not to work--but still have the option to use the work time for personal and private things--in other words they not only have the benefits of doing nothing all day--but they save on gas, child care, annual and sick leave---all done on paid teleworking time. You're right, we're all suppose to be honest, law abiding citizens--but most of us cheat--and think nothing of it. It's mostly upper level employees--of course you will find some that cheat in lower grades--they say what's good for the goose is also good for the gander--as the saying goes -- join them is you can't beat them.

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 Oldtimer Fed

I have almost 39 years with the Federal gov. I pretty much agree with much was has been said. There are people who do nothing all day long. Others that chat a lot. All of us chat a bit. That is how we know what is going on. But when the deadline comes or even with out one, I do get the work done. The only experience in the public sector was in a factory and there was no slack time there. But the gov job doubled my minimun wage salary because I became a professional/auditor. It is impossible to compare wages because of the range of salaries on both sides. It cannot be lumpted together and these writers don not want to take that time. The ones making less complain but I say get a degree and if you cannot get a job then you can gripe.

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