Managing the Work Life Balance: the Benefits of Working In Federal Government


We all know that life is stressful.  There are deadlines and conflicting events both in our personal and professional lives that can cause us to pull our hair out.  Throw in managing the kids’ schedules, family visiting, car trouble, and pet expenses, and things just get downright crazy.  One of the benefits of working in federal government is the flexibility of work schedules, the gift of telework, and programs such as Staff Care that provide support for a holistic approach to well-being for employees. I am sure that other companies outside of federal government offer similar, or possibly better, benefits, but there are so many options in federal government that can make your schedule and stress level more manageable.

First, there are so many choices for the type of work schedule that you could have – different agencies offer specific options, but usually, as a direct hire, you have the option of working a regular 9 to 5 schedule (cue the Dolly Parton song); arriving earlier and leaving earlier to avoid traffic, or pick up your child from daycare; or working an alternate (or compressed) work schedule.  This compressed type of schedule involves working 9 hour days for eight of the ten days in a pay period, working an 8 hour day for one of the ten days, and then having one day off.  This day could be a day where you do nothing, and it’s glorious – my roommate Emily and I used to watch marathons of Hallmark movies during the holidays, which is the perfect thing to do on a “do nothing” day.  Another option is using this day to run all of your errands and go to places that aren’t open on the weekends – it still boggles my mind that so many places are still only open Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, which is when everyone is working.  Then, with the errands all done, you actually enjoy the weekend.

Another huge benefit of working in federal government is having the option to telework – it could be situational, recurring (every Wednesday every week), or it could perhaps be 80% of your week.  Now, most agencies don’t allow teleworking 80% of the time because it is important to be in the office and attend meetings in person; however, this is a very helpful option when moving.  I have had colleagues who were able to relocate and did not have to look for a brand new job at the same time because they could telework for a few months in their new town.  The stress of moving is so immense, that removing the job search at the same time is an incredible benefit.  It’s rare and requires many signatures, but it is a very nice option to have.  Also, telework is a great option when the weather is bad, and driving could be dangerous.  Additionally, it allows for flexibility with making other appointments – for example, if you have a doctor’s appointment near your house at noon, it is so much easier logistically to telework in the morning, take some sick leave for the appointment, and then just come home again to telework.  That increases efficiency by decreasing travel time as well.

Lastly, my agency has a group of people who work in Staff Care, who offer advice on work life balance like holiday health tips, but also organize presentations from experts on relevant work and life events and situations, such as the ergonomics of your work desk.  They encourage healthy lifestyles in a job that usually involves most of the day in meetings or behind a desk, by creating different challenges, such as a pedometer challenge and healthy weight challenge.  My office also has a quiet room that allows people to meditate and decompress from stressful situations.  While I don’t think everyone utilizes these services, it’s comforting to know that they are available if needed.  Also, by my agency having this program, it demonstrates that USAID cares about their employees and focuses on them not just as employees, but as people.  There are so many people in my agency all throughout the world, that it is very nice to not be treated like a cog in a wheel.

Now, that’s not to say that everything about working in federal government is peachy, and that there is never any stress, but I don’t think it’s possible to say that about any job or workplace, and sometimes without some stress, we aren’t as organized or as motivated.  Federal government just gives employees the option to de-stress their professional lives a bit with flexibility, so that we have more bandwidth to deal with other life stressors.

The views expressed in this document reflect the personal opinions of the author and are entirely the author’s own.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or the United States Government.  USAID is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied herein.

Samantha L Corey is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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