"You have to recognize the political climate and economic climate and try to get to creative," he said.

Miriam Cohen, chief human capital officer at the NRC, said the agency uses the results of the annual survey, as well as other employee input, as it tries to respond to worker needs.

"When they give you the feedback, you have to do something about it," Cohen said. "It's a difficult time right now, being a federal employee on the heels of sequester, the shutdown and no raises recently, no bonuses. We try to figure out what we can do."

Toward that end, she said, the agency offers flexible work schedules, for example. With supervisor approval, some employees are able to alter their work schedule to leave early or take extra days off, as long as they put in 80 hours over a two-week pay period.

The NRC also has a robust telework program and a health unit on campus, she said.

Cohen said managers invite experts to speak to the workforce on topics such as coping with holiday stress or saving for retirement.

The survey results are encouraging, she said.

"We feel very, very good about how we scored," Cohen said. "We want to use the survey as critical data to make the agency work better. We want to continue to be a high-performing organization."

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Highs and lows

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for 2013 ranks workers' overall satisfaction with their job, pay and agency, as well as whether they'd recommend their organization as a good place to work. Across the government, 59 percent of respondents rated their overall satisfaction positively.

Here are the agencies whose employees ranked highest and lowest for overall satisfaction.

Highest satisfaction

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 74 percent

Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 72 percent

Federal Communications Commission, 71 percent

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 70 percent

Department of State, 69 percent

Lowest satisfaction

Department of Housing and Urban Development, 49 percent

National Archives and Records Administration, 49 percent

Department of Homeland Security, 51 percent

Broadcasting Board of Governors, 54 percent

Office of Management and Budget, 56 percent

Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management