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EPA’s Chemicals Head Tells Staff to Consider Work-Life Balance

Oct. 20, 2021, 8:10 PM

The EPA’s chemicals office is making a series of changes to “reclaim and experience a healthy work-life balance,” according to an internal email from its assistant administrator.

The changes include avoiding scheduling meetings with outside parties on Fridays and between noon and 1 p.m. on all days, encouraging staff to take lunch breaks, and improving meetings by “streamlining topics, requesting agendas, and keeping conversations crisp,” Michal Freedhoff, head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, wrote in an email that was reviewed by Bloomberg Law.

Freedhoff’s effort matches the pledges to improve morale and overall employee happiness from EPA Administrator Michael Regan. Several staffers have said they’re still dissatisfied with their jobs seven months into Regan’s tenure, but few have laid the blame directly at his feet.

Freedhoff also told staff in the Oct. 18 email that, during their off hours, they should “enjoy your weekends and holidays,” “disengage from work and rejuvenate,” and “don’t work beyond your core hours without prior supervisory approval.” They should also avoid checking email and work projects while on paid leave, she said.

“One of the many perks of federal employment is the vacation time provided to rest and recharge,” she wrote.

The new push to demarcate work time from rest time was triggered by a growing sense that the agency’s workload is straining employees, Freedhoff said. A well-rested workforce “will best be able to continue producing outstanding results for protecting human health and the environment into the future,” she wrote.

Freedhoff also said leadership in the chemicals office is identifying priorities and spotlighting areas where resources are lacking, as part of a broader effort to ease the workloads on overburdened staff.

For Regan, keeping employees satisfied with their jobs is critical to the agency’s mission.

Some 1,000 employees left during the Trump administration, and the agency needs skilled troops as it embarks on President Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to slash carbon emissions from power plants and cars; clean up polluted water and land; and right historical environmental wrongs in low-income communities of color.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at stephenlee@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergindustry.com; Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

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