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.


  • Workforce
    Shutterstock image 1658927440 By Deliris masks in office coronavirus covid19

    White House orders federal contractors vaccinated by Dec. 8

    New COVID-19 guidance directs federal contractors and subcontractors to make sure their employees are vaccinated — the latest in a series of new vaccine requirements the White House has been rolling out in recent weeks.

  • FCW Perspectives
    remote workers (elenabsl/

    Post-pandemic IT leadership

    The rush to maximum telework did more than showcase the importance of IT -- it also forced them to rethink their own operations.

Stay Connected