HHS:'Telework' Gives Gov't Employees More Time for 'Planning and Preparing Healthy Meals'

By Terence P. Jeffrey | May 17, 2013 | 5:23 PM EDT

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it wants as many as 20 percent of its workers to "telework," use an "alternative work schedule," or do both, in order to "reduce green house gas emissions," decrease "employee stress," and give these government workers more time for "planning and preparing healthy meals."

So says one of the HHS "performance measures" detailed in an appendix to the department's latest strategic plan.

HHS's performance measure "4.D.05" says: "Increase the percent employees on telework or on Alternative Work Schedule."

Telework means working from home via phone and computer. An "alternative work schedule," according to the federal Office of Personnel Management means having "flexible work schedules and compressed work schedules." A compressed work schedule means putting the 80 hours of work required in a two-week government pay period into less than 10 work days.

Theoretically, under the HHS strategic goal, an HHS employee could telework from home 80 hours one week and then not work at all the next week--and dedicate copious time to "planning and preparing healthy meals" and other behaviors HHS wants to increase among government employees.

"This goal is in concert with implementation of the HHS Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP) prepared under Executive Order (EO) 13514, which requires HHS to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions by technological, programmatic and behavioral changes," says the HHS strategic plan.

The plan includes a chart that indicates that this year (fiscal 2013) a little more than 15 percent of HHS employees are "teleworking" or working a "compressed work schedule." The government agency wants that to increase to 20 percent by fiscal 2015, which starts in October 2014.

"Increasing the percentage of teleworking employees reduces the vehicle miles traveled, which reduces GHG [greenhouse gas] and other pollutants in our air, soil and water, which can be harmful to human health," says the HHS plan. "Typical commuting causes employee stress and decreases the amount of time employees can devote to other health activities such as physical activity, planning and preparing healthy meals and developing social capital by spending time with family or in the community."

The Department of Health and Human Services spent $891.2 billion in fiscal 2012, according to the U.S. Treasury.