The Perks of Being a Government Employee

Government employees have faced a number of “downers” in recent years: sequestration and budget cuts, furloughs, and pay freezes, just to name a few. Federal employees hired today are required to contribute a greater proportion of their salaries to their pensions than those hired just a few years ago. Travel budgets have been cut down to nearly nothing in some organizations. At first glance, there’s a lot to be unhappy about.

Yet, in spite of some of these unfortunate circumstances, we’re still here. We have shown, time and time again, our ability to weather any storm. And we still have a lot to be happy about.

Being a government employee may not carry with it traditional perks like free coffee or free airline tickets, but there are still perks to be found in the realm of government. I don’t mean job duties; I mean perks: the little extras, the bonuses, the icing on the cake. Perks can turn an ordinary day into something to which you look forward, and for this reason, perks have a huge ROI when it comes to employee morale. What’s your favorite? Do you have access to amazing training resources? Tuition reimbursement? Free anything?

One of my favorite perks that I can apply to have access to through my agency is web-based Rosetta Stone software for personal use (awarded only if there are extra licenses available after awarding them for business use). I’ve been able to keep my German skills polished with access to the software for almost a year now. Another perk: the opportunity to (occasionally) work from home. You don’t have to get out of your pajamas all day unless you want to, and rather than being limited to your brown bag lunch, the whole refrigerator is your oyster.

Perks are great, but they don’t make us any happier unless we use them. How can we take advantage of perks? What little-known perks exist in government that we’re not taking advantage of? If you are familiar with a government perk, be it a transit subsidy or a software license, please share your experience and some how-tos. Our agencies may not all have the same policies, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some policies were duplicated between departments or agencies. This is our opportunity to learn from one another how to take advantage of the great options available to us!

One more thing: What perks could government agencies add to their repertoire that would boost employee morale for relatively low cost? Is there a “little extra” out there that could change your outlook on coming to work each day?

Erica Bakota 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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Kevin Lanahan

I appreciate those lovely little extra holidays that we get that the private sector may ignore. In Missouri, we get Harry Truman’s birthday (May 8th) off. It helps break that long stretch between President’s Day and Memorial Day.

What can government do? Not much. But managers can do little things, like bringing in coffee, buying birthday cakes, showing some appreciation. That’s usually what makes a difference.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

I agree that working from home is a great perk! I take advantage of it weekly. The transit subsidy, even though it went down this year, is also a great incentive to use mass transit. Our leave and benefits package is not too shabby either! In fact, OPM released their benefits survey results recently (http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/pay-benefits-watch/2014/07/benefits-federal-employees-love-most/88288/?oref=river) showing that the TSP is the number 1 benefit and FEHB is right behind. I was surprised that more people aren’t taking advantage of the FSA and LTC programs.

In addition to these, plus the many discounts that Feds get, some Feds have access to subsidized childcare centers or childcare subsidies, fitness subsidies and/or time-off for fitness, time-off for volunteer service, free parking, and other benefits like uniform allowances.

Even though we don’t get maternity/paternity leave, we do have family-friendly sick leave, the volunteer leave transfer program, and some agencies have leave banks. We have generous annual and sick leave. In fact, I have over 2,200 hours of sick leave saved up. Too bad I can’t donate it to anyone, but it does help me to increase my annuity.

Overall, we don’t do so bad in the Federal government!

Juana Williams

A perk that would not be costly is an occasional training on computer programs (Excel, power point, etc). Our IT dept. is overwhelmed with work, but this could be accomplished by the Talent Development and Training department.

David B. Grinberg

Awesome post, Erica!

As Terry alludes to below, I think the most important perk for feds and all gov employees is an enhanced work-life balance. This may include remote work, flexible scheduling, wellness programs, etc. Many studies have shown that a better work-life balance generally improves productivity and performance, employee engagement and morale, and dedication/loyalty to one’s agency and its mission — not to mention decreased absenteeism.

That’s a major win-win for employees and gov.