Biden is Deploying Feds to Rural Areas to Better Connect Communities With Government

The new hires will help local leaders in distressed areas navigate the bureaucracy to access federal staff and resources.

   The Biden administration announced this past week that they plan to start sending federal employees to rural areas around the country in order to boost the partnership with rural communities and the federal government. They believe in doing this that it helps these areas gain access to more resources. These federal employees will essentially be “community liaisons” for areas that are in economic distress and then report back to one of the 16 agencies with the issues and possible solutions. This will be a first of its kind initiative.

The program is set to start in 25 rural communities in 5 different states and in some tribal areas. The second phase will include 5 more states and also Puerto Rico. The program is focusing on the most economically distressed areas first, and then plans are to have these liaisons in all 50 states. There has been a need for this for many years, and even some lawmakers were calling for a program like this, but it took the pandemic to make it clear that certain communities did not have the access to federal resources that they needed. “Agriculture Department Secretary Tom Vilsack said rural communities will benefit from more direct and specific relationships with federal employees. “The Rural Partners Network will help communities get funding for investments that create long-lasting benefits for their communities, especially those that have been overlooked in the past,” Vilsack said. “By providing one-on-one support to these communities, we can lay the foundation for people to build healthy, successful futures on their own terms” (Katz 22).

The states that are chosen to participate in the program will begin with 3 or 4 federal employees who will report to the USDA, and they are already hiring for these positions with the hope that they can begin by the end of May. “[Rural Partners Network] communities will have access to full-time federal staff based in or near their communities who will help community networks navigate federal programs that meet their needs, support the development of strong applications by assisting in the development of competitive projects and project materials, and helping communities build relationships with the appropriate federal agencies and staff,” the spokesperson said.    

The program itself will focus on job creation, community improvement, and infrastructure development. The Biden administration is hoping that through this program it will give these rural communities more of a voice in federal policy making allowing more response to their concerns. The staff is said to wake up every day with a mandate to work with the local community and to build relationships. In doing so, they will identify the needs of these communities and be able to relay that to Washington.

“The agencies participating in the program will include the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, Denali Commission, Northern Border Regional Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and Small Business Administration” (Katz 22).

By: Beth Gray

https://www.govexec.com/management/2022/04/biden-deploying-feds-rural-areas-better-connect-communities-government/365893/

How Federal Agencies Can Improve Americans’ Health and Well-Being

Federal agencies have the opportunity and responsibility to integrate the social determinants of health into their missions and their work.

In 2020, the United States life expectancy fell drastically, putting it at its lowest level since 2003. With all the technology that the country possesses and despite spending more money on healthcare than any other country, the US now ranks 26th out of the 35 countries that comprise the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Public health experts are now studying the factors leading up to this decline, the social determinants of health. These include employment status, income, education, food security, housing, the environment, and even transportation.

The Department of Health and Human Services has now made it a priority to improve the social determinants of health. They have begun a program called Healthy People 2030 that sets data driven national objectives for health and well-being. Last September, HHS and a nonprofit called Center for Open Data Enterprise hosted an event in which they brought experts from different sectors to discuss how to improve the SDOH. The roundtable proved to show how interrelated the different aspects of SDOH are, identified different cases in different sectors, and discussed how federal agencies could address them.

An example of this would be recent work by the Federal Transit Administration. They identified the importance of transportation to healthcare access. The purpose was how to apply these learnings and how the agency could support programs in communities that are far from healthcare facilities with reliable and affordable transportation, or to build bike paths or sidewalks to make it easier for exercise.

Transportation is closely tied to housing and in 2017 an assessment by the Government Accountability office revealed that 15% of rental units have issues including water leaks, rodents, low air quality, and defective heating. “The Department of Housing and Urban Development could set SDOH-driven targets around lead abatement, indoor air quality, air conditioning for residences with extreme heat risk, and other factors. It is vital to proactively address these issues, many of which are being compounded by climate change” (Gurin 22).

Climate change happens to be a very large threat across the SDOH. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the White House Office of Science and Technology are currently working on ways to expand information on hazards like flooding, drought, and fire. The agencies can then look at these issues through a SDOH lens to help them develop specific objectives in order to address the impacts of climate on health and well-being. “CODE’s report on the roundtable includes a number of action opportunities for federal agencies to improve SDOH conditions for all Americans. CODE is also publishing a cross-sector SDOH data hub that shows the wealth of data on SDOH factors that already exists, and makes it easily accessible for analysis. CODE’s report highlights opportunities to make progress by adapting and applying Healthy People 2030 to the state and local level; coordinating work on the SDOH within and between federal agencies more effectively; setting targets for progress in underrepresented areas, using an equity lens; and making SDOH data easier to access and use. CODE is also continuing its work on SDOH with a focus on its application to racial equity. On April 6, CODE co-hosted a webinar  to explore that topic and other applications of open government data for racial equity in healthcare, and featured speakers from government and the private sector” (Gurin 22).

Overall, this gives federal agencies across the government an opportunity to share in the responsibility of protecting the American people. 2020 brought about so much uncertainty with the pandemic, more climate change, racial injustice, and economic uncertainty. Along with HHS and SDOH, who have already built the framework and laid the foundation, the agencies now can focus on their responsibility of American’s health and can set goals to achieve a healthier nation.

By: Beth Grayhttps://www.govexec.com/management/2022/04/how-agencies-across-government-can-improve-americans-health-and-well-being/365550/

Even after Lockdowns Eased, Pandemic Depression Persisted across Social Classes

A new study finds that adults in the U.S. reported the same levels of depression a year into the pandemic as they did at the outset.

Covid-19 and the lockdown not only affected our physical health, but also our mental health. The isolation, not being able to do normal enjoyable activities, and not being able to see family and friends left many people feeling sad and lonely. Researched showed that 1 in 5 U.S. adults reported probable depression in the spring of 2020.        Catherine Ettman and Sandro Galea launched a national study in March of 2020 which measured mental health and assets. At the time, 27.8% of adult in the United States reported symptoms of losing interest in activities or feeling down and hopeless. This number was over three times as high as the national average before the pandemic of 8.5%.

As spring 2021 rolled around, the researchers believed that numbers would have dropped, seeing that people were returning to work, children were in school, and most importantly a vaccine was available, and doctors were finding better ways to treat COVID-19. As the research continued, the number did not decrease but rather increased to 32.8% of U.S. adults reporting symptoms of depression. Combined together, the 2021 number concluded that 20.3% of people had experienced depression in 2020 and 2021, suggesting that the pandemic had driven many to poor mental health.

The research team was also interested in the financial and social assets that may influence people’s mental health during the pandemic, so in their first survey they concluded that people that came into the pandemic with fewer assets, especially financial assets, were more likely to be affected by COVID-19 related stress. In their follow up survey in April of 2021, the team wanted to see the relationship between mental health and asset status. “We looked at financial assets such as personal savings, physical assets such as home ownership and social assets of education and marital status. We compared people who were similar in terms of marriage, education and home ownership. We found that people in households earning less than US$20,000 a year were 3.5 times as likely to report persistent depression symptoms as those making $75,000. We also found that people who had $5,000 or more in savings or a bank account reported less persistent depression. Having more assets, however, did not reduce the depression-inducing stress of losing a job, suffering relationship problems or experiencing financial difficulties during the pandemic” (Ettman 22).

The next step for the team is to explore the areas of overlap between those who started the pandemic with less and then with those who suffered great losses during the pandemic, like job losses, financial difficulties, deaths of family members, and relationship problems. “People who have fewer assets are the ones most at risk of depression, especially depression that lasts over time with social upheaval. Assets can be a cushion, but even they did not protect people from the harmful effects of stressors brought on by the pandemic. Our research shows that although the pandemic seems to be easing, Americans are still suffering. And they may continue to feel ill effects on their mental health for a long time to come” (Ettman 22).

By: Beth Gray

https://www.govexec.com/management/2022/03/even-after-lockdowns-eased-pandemic-depression-persisted-across-social-classes-new-study/363798/4

An Emphasis on Brilliance Creates a Toxic, Dog-Eat-Dog Workplace Atmosphere that Discourages Women

A focus on raw intellectual talent may unintentionally create a cutthroat workplace culture. New research suggests women’s preference to avoid that environment may contribute to gender gaps in some fields.

The issue of gender diversity in the workplace is nothing new these days, but researchers Andrei Cimpian, Melis Muradoglu and George Newman took a deeper look into workplaces that emphasize brilliance. Brilliance, in this case, is defined as raw intellectual talent in academic disciplines such as philosophy, mathematics, and economics. Studies are proving women are underrepresented in these fields, but not because they lack intellectual ability, quite the opposite, girls make up half the gifted population in the United States. So why are women shying away from these professions?

For so long the stereotype has equated men with brilliance. The team asked academics in more than 30 fields to share their own disciplines and then they conducted two more experiments with laypeople. Some believed that brilliance was required for success in academia, while others believed these professions were a dog-eat-dog atmosphere dominated by masculinity and aggression. “To thrive or even survive in these work cultures, employees must appear tough, conceal any weakness, put work above all else, be willing to step on others, and constantly watch their backs (Vial 22).

The research suggests that it is not the lack of intellectual ability or even the emphasis on brilliance that is holding women back from these fields, but the aggressive competitive culture. Traditionally women are taught to be or are naturally honest, kind, and even cooperative. This makes this type of work environment less appealing, “potentially explaining persistent gender gaps in brilliance-oriented professions (Vial 22).

The focus on brilliance in these professions is extremely harmful. It is of great concern to academic institutions, government, and also the public. It is encouraging a rise in a negative workplace for women, and men and women alike feel that this culture makes them feel like an imposter that does not belong. The results of the “experiment illuminate possible ways to address gender gaps in fields that prize brilliance. For instance, the team asked participants to imagine they had an acquaintance who works at a brilliance-oriented company. When the imaginary acquaintance described the work environment as a masculinity contest culture, women were less interested than men in applying for a job at this company, and more likely to expect they wouldn’t belong there. But if the acquaintance described a cooperative company culture where employees “have each other’s backs,” men and women were equally interested in working there. Nothing changed in what the participants knew about the company’s emphasis on brilliance. Changing how the culture was described was enough to eliminate gender gaps in interest and sense of belonging (Vial 22).

This is not to say this is the only reason there is large gender gaps in brilliance-based positions, many factors play a role along with this, like a lack of effective role models as an example. “People often equate competition with high quality – believing that, in a battle for success, the best ideas will rise to the top. But masculinity contest cultures entail a zero-sum noncooperative mentality that does not necessarily drive excellence. Of course, competition in itself need not be a bad thing; but everybody suffers in a culture focused on attaining status and dominance at any cost. Rather than trying to revise deep-rooted beliefs about the value of brilliance, it may be more fruitful to change workplace cultures, setting strong norms that curb competition for intellectual dominance and that favor free exchange and openness” (Vial 22).

By: Beth Gray

https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2022/03/emphasis-brilliance-creates-toxic-dog-eat-dog-workplace-atmosphere-discourages-women/363575/

4 Women Who Shaped Modern Retirement

Stories of pioneers in creating the federal government’s retirement safety net and reaping its benefits.

Since 1987 March has been designated as Women’s History Month. It is a time to reflect on the great women of history and the path they paved for women today. Four women in particular played a large role in the development of retirement benefits provided by the federal government: Frances Perkins, Ida Mae Fuller, Betty Villemarette, and Millie Parsons.

Frances Perkins

Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a cabinet position. She served as Labor Secretary under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. In this position she was part of many workplace reforms including a minimum wage and the unemployment system. She went on to be the Chair of the President’s Committee on Economic Security which led to the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935. When she was 80 years old, she gave a speech to the Social Security Administration and said this, “we have to admit that no matter how much fine reasoning there was about the old-age insurance system and the unemployment insurance prospects, no matter how many people were studying it, or how many committees had ideas on the subject, or how many college professors had written theses on the subject—and there were an awful lot of them—the real roots of the Social Security Act were in the Great Depression of 1929. Nothing else would have bumped the American people into a Social Security system except something so shocking, so terrifying, as that depression.”

Ida Mae Fuller

Ida Mae Fuller was the first recipient of the monthly Social Security Benefits. She began paying into Social Security in 1937, just three years before she retired. She worked as a legal secretary in Vermont when the social security tax rate was 1% of the salary by both the employee and employer on the employee’s first $3,000 of earnings. “Before she retired, Fuller paid $24.75 in payroll taxes on total earnings of $24,750 from June 1937 to September 1939. She then received a benefit that started out at $22.54 per month. Fuller lived to be 100 years old, and over her lifetime received a total of nearly $23,000 in benefit payments. A trip to the Social Security office in Rutland, Vermont, at the end of Fuller’s career definitely paid off. “It wasn’t that I expected anything, mind you,” she later said, “but I knew I’d been paying for something called Social Security and I wanted to ask the people in Rutland about it” (Flanagan 22).

Betty Villemarette

Betty Villemarette was a CIA employee who was instrumental in obtaining benefits for former federal spouses. Betty was not always a CIA employee herself. She first began as a spouse of a CIA officer. She often accompanied her husband on dangerous missions overseas, where on one occasion she disarmed an agent in Ethiopia that was supposed to be guarding their home. By the early 1970’s Betty’s marriage was over, and she was in dire financial trouble as there were no laws to provide former spouses with income, retirement, or health benefits. Betty began her own career with the CIA shortly after and served for 10 years. During that time, she fought to secure rights for former spouses of federal employees. “She testified before a congressional committee in support of the legislation that would become the 1984 Civil Service Spouse Equity Act. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta called Villemarette “a tireless advocate for agency employees and families. Her hard work and dedication did much to improve the quality of life for our officers and their loved ones” (Flanagan 22).

Millie Parsons

At the time of Millie’s death in 2012, she was the longest continuously serving employee in the history of the FBI. She began her career in1939 and retired at age 88 in 2002. Millie served under a total of 6 FBI directors and had 30 different supervisors over her career. Millie had served for over 62 years and accumulated thousands of hours of sick time because she never called in sick. “Since federal employees earn 2,080 hours of sick leave every 20 years, after 62 years of service Parsons could have earned more than three years of such leave. But when she was first hired, there wasn’t a formal sick leave system. Even with her long career, Parsons was able to enjoy retirement for more than 10 years before she died just shy of turning 100 years old” (Flanagan 22).

By: Beth Gray

https://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2022/03/4-women-who-shaped-modern-retirement/363313/

11 Things You Can Do to Adjust to Losing that Hour of Sleep when Daylight Saving Time Starts

Two sleep doctors offer some survival tips to help you adjust to losing that hour of sleep as clocks spring forward into daylight saving time.

Twice a year in spring and fall, our internal clocks must be reset due to changing the clocks and daylight savings. One hour may seem insignificant, but even this minimal amount can cause sleep problems and, in some cases, significant health repercussions. Spring forward often is harder than fall back, but why is that the case? Our natural internal body clock rhythm actually tends to be a bit longer than 24 hours and in return we often delay our sleep schedules. When we spring forward, it goes against our body’s natural rhythm.

Even though it is only one hour of sleep lost, it often leads to sleep disruptions for a few days or even a week, therefore leading to cumulative sleep loss. It can almost be compared to a jet lag feeling. As a result, we should not just jump into daylight savings, but prepare as much as possible the week before for the time shift that occurs every spring.

Because sleep loss can lead to major health issues like heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke, it is imperative to strive to get the correct sleep your body needs. Below are 11 tips to prepare for the time change.

1.) Do not go into spring forward with a “sleep debt.” Make sure you are getting adequate sleep leading up to the time change.

2.) Try to prepare for the time change. Going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier every night leading up to the weekend can help significantly. Also waking up earlier the day prior to the time change, so that you are tired and ready for bed that night. Keeping the same wake up time on weekdays and weekends is also beneficial.

3.) Use the light. Bright light is the strongest cue for your internal clock. If you don’t have access to natural light for some reason, use artificial light to help.

4.) Minimize your exposure to bright light at night. Blue light from screens can signal your internal clock to wake up later the next day. It’s important to stay off screens 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.

5.) If you have room darkening curtains, make sure to open them as soon as you wake to help set your sleep-wake cycle.

6.) Plan all your activities for the day before. Make sure to plan relaxing activities the night before to ensure a good night’s rest, like reading or meditating.

7.) Exercise in the morning, even if it is only taking a walk.

8.) Load up on protein rich foods. Sleep deprivation increases appetite and cravings for carbohydrates.

9.) Do not drink caffeine after noon. This can lead to disrupted sleep and trouble falling asleep.

10.) Do not drink alcohol near bedtime. It can disturb sleep.

11.) Be patient. This really applies to parents with young children. Sleep deprivation can lead to more frequent meltdowns and irritability. Adults and children should consider an early afternoon nap, maybe only for 20 minutes. This can help deal with the change in time.

Prioritizing your sleep pays off not only in the short term but also over the years. It is imperative to your health and leading productive and fulfilling days.

By: Beth Gray

https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2022/03/11-things-you-can-do-adjust-losing-hour-sleep-when-daylight-saving-time-starts/363106/

Vaccine mandate for federal employees awaits court ruling

On November 4, 2021, President Joe Biden ordered that all federal employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19. This triggered a large amount of resistance from federal employees, and according to Charles Scarborough, department of justice lawyer, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown overstepped his authority when he blocked the presidents mandate in January.

Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas, issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement. Now this issue is being brought before the federal appeals court. The attorney for the administration, Scarborough, is arguing that the constitution gives the president the same authority as a CEO of a private corporation because he is the head of the federal workforce. “This is the president exercising his authority as an employer,” Scarborough said. He is also arguing that the case does not belong in federal court stating that federal employees have administrative civil service remedies that must be exhausted before going to court.

Arguing for the other side is lawyer Trent McCotter who is saying that the administration is exceeding its statutory and constitutional power. “McCotter referenced the recent Supreme Court opinion that the government cannot force private employers to require employee vaccinations. He said the federal employee mandate was the same kind of “coercive choice” struck down in that case. “It’s a sort of freestanding, ongoing constitutional injury,” McCotter said. It was the second time in a month that the 5th Circuit dealt with the issue. A different panel refused last month to block Brown’s ruling pending appeal. That panel’s vote was 2-1, with no reasons given by the majority but a lengthy dissent by Judge Stephen Higginson, who said a single district judge “lacking public health expertise and made unaccountable through life tenure,” should not be able to block the president from ordering the same type of COVID-19 safety measures many private sector CEO’s have ordered (McGill 22).

The panel members for Tuesday’s hearing were Judge Carl Stewart, Rhesa Barksdale, and Judge James Dennis. During this time McCotter defended the ruling saying, “Unless he makes this a broad, clear injunction, then individuals entitled to relief are going to fall through the cracks.” The federal employee vaccine mandate is one of the many vaccine related mandates being tested in federal courts right now, one of which was Biden’s order that private employers force their workers to get vaccinated. This was struck down by the Supreme Court.

The requirement for federal contractors and subcontractors to be vaccinated is currently on hold. A federal judge in Georgia blocked the mandate nationwide and the Atlanta-based circuit appeals court will hear arguments on this case April 8, 2022.

By: Beth Gray

Survey: 58% of Working Americans Say Their Jobs Are ‘Main Source’ of Mental Health Challenges

Nearly 90% of Americans believe being in control of their work schedules, along with performance measures, could improve burnout.

As we move into almost two years of the coronavirus pandemic, work looks very different for many Americans. A study by Qualtrics, an experience management firm, reported that 7 out of 10 working Americans feel that they are burned out and are having a hard time with a work and home life balance. The study also revealed that 58% believe their job is their main source of mental health struggles. The study was done to reveal long term impacts of the pandemic for full time employees and also the changes that have come with how and where work is performed.

The study, which was 1,021 full time employees and 161 government employees, showed that working remotely has had a negative effect on some employees: “20% say they begin their workdays earlier than before, 18% take fewer sick days and 17% believe they are working more than they did before” (Konkel 22).

 While the study showed the negative impacts of working remotely during the pandemic, it also provided insight on how to prevent or help employees experiencing burnout. 55% of employees expressed flexibility over their work hours and schedule would make them more likely to stay with an employer. They also said performance-based goals over the number of hours worked was a better option. Only 11% of employees stated that performance was rated by results and not hours worked.

Employees in the private and public sector stated the top three things that would improve their mental health would be higher pay, a four-day work week, and flexibility to work whenever, wherever. Flexibility was so important in the study that 51% of tech workers and 24% of government workers said that they would be willing to sacrifice 5% of their pay in order to have control over their hours and where they worked.

“Flexibility has become a buzzword as employees have embraced new styles of working during the pandemic. But it’s important to look deeper at what flexibility really means,” said Benjamin Granger, head of employee experience advisory services at Qualtrics, in a statement. “As work and home life have become increasingly connected—and employees continue juggling childcare responsibilities and caretaking needs for themselves and sick family members—they’re asking for flexible schedules that fit better with the demands of their lives.”

By: Beth Gray

https://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2022/02/survey-58-working-americans-say-their-jobs-are-main-source-mental-health-challenges/362128/

Some Agencies Report 100% Vaccine Mandate Compliance as Others Begin Suspensions

Agencies continue to see vaccination rates rise as disciplinary actions ramp up.

The federal government gave its agencies and contractors time to comply to President Biden’s vaccine mandate, but not all employees have complied. Counseling and education were a first step among many agencies trying to get all their personal vaccinated, but it seems now more and more are taking steps towards more severe punishments. While all agencies have seen an improvement in vaccination and compliance status since the mandate was announced in November, the administration did suggest pushing back the harsher punishments till January.

Agencies are still pushing for compliance, and some are doing better than others. The department of Education, for example, is now 100 percent compliant. All its employees have been vaccinated or have an exemption pending. “The Environmental Protection Agency and Nuclear Regulatory Commission have seen their vaccination rates jump by an additional 3% of their workforces in recent weeks. Below are the compliance and vaccination rates for every major federal agency, which in some cases date back to December” (Katz 22).

The Agricultural Department still has around 1,600 employees that are not vaccinated and not in compliance. They plan to move into the next phase of disciplinary action immediately. As with other agencies, they are hopeful that this will encourage the rest of the employees to comply. “As we move forward with the next steps of the enforcement process, which will involve letters proposing brief suspensions for those few still not in compliance with the vaccination requirement, we anticipate that even more of our employees will get vaccinated in the days and weeks ahead,” a spokesperson said.

Some agencies were ready to move forward with harsher procedures in December but used that time instead to send letters to employees not in compliance warning them of the repercussions as the government asked agencies to wait till January. Some even went as far as reminding workers of friends, family, and colleagues that would be affected by their decision to not comply. According to the agencies, carrying out these suspensions and possible firings have not impacted the services that the American people rely on.

Agencies also must consider all their medical and religious exemption requests that they have received and begin working on them. “Agencies are in the process of reviewing and adjudicating exception requests,” the OMB official said. “That process will continue to pick up pace as agency personnel return from the holidays and last week’s federal office closures due to inclement weather.” Agencies are handling thousands of requests and the majority of employees have not heard back and could still face disciplinary action if their requests are denied and they do not get the vaccine.

By: Beth Gray

https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2022/01/some-agencies-report-100-vaccine-mandate-compliance-others-begin-suspensions/360630/

How to Avoid Achy Feet while Working at Home

One side effect of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic may come as a surprise: sore feet. Here are some tips on how to get relief.

As the pandemic spirals on, working from home is becoming more prevalent and for many companies, permanent. With the ability to work from home comes some perks, one being comfort! Instead of dress slacks, we slip on sweatpants, and instead of heels or dress shoes, we go right to our warm comfy slippers or completely barefoot! According to Sean Peden, an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist from Yale University Medicine, these habits can lead to foot pain and other issues. “Many people are continuing to work at home part- or full-time, which for some can mean wearing slippers or walking around barefoot,” Peden says. “And because of that, many patients are coming to us with foot problems.” Taking care of your feet is extremely important and can prevent common injuries in your feet, ankles, knees, and your back. Below are a few examples of injuries and how you can protect against them.

Walking barefoot or with soft cushy slippers with no real sole is ill advised. Peden states that when selecting shoes for at home, it should be similar to ones we would wear out of the house. Our shoes need to have harder soles in order to absorb the shock of walking. After weeks or months of not having proper footwear, injuries can begin to occur, like calluses, but also bigger issues like arch collapse. Peden suggests having house shoes that are only worn indoors. “To be practical, I suggest a slip-on clog or slipper without laces. That way, you don’t have to tie and untie your shoes 10 times a day,” Peden says. “A hard sole is important because the harder the sole, the less stress the joints and tendons in your foot experience with each step. The hard sole transfers that stress to the shoe rather than to the foot. A good rule of thumb is if it isn’t something you could walk in for a few blocks comfortably, you shouldn’t wear it around the house all day, either.”

Two of the most common foot problems Peden has seen since the beginning of the pandemic is Achilles Tendonitis and Planter Fasciitis. Tendonitis can really impact an individual that has flat feet. The tendon in the arch of the foot becomes inflamed and can cause damage. Peden says if you experience pain from this, stay off your feet, ice the area, and find a good supportive pair of shoes to wear daily! Secondly, planter fasciitis, which is normally pain in your heel, is caused by inflammation in the foot at the band of tissue on the bottom of your feet. “The pain is usually on the bottom part of the heel,” Peden says. “It’s associated with tight Achilles tendons and calf muscles. If people spend a lot of their day sitting, for example, the muscles can tighten up, and wearing improper footwear can exacerbate the issue.” The fix for this is mostly proper footwear according to Peden, there is also a flexible splint that can be worn at night to stretch out the muscle, so it is not so tight by the morning. “Exercise, physical therapy, and weight loss can all make a difference in addressing foot pain, too. “One pound of additional weight on your body leads to six pounds of additional pressure on your foot. So, if you lose 10 pounds, that is really taking 60 pounds of pressure off your foot,” Peden says. With the pandemic, many people have gained weight, which compounds the problem. But the key is not to do too much too quickly to try to reverse it, Peden says. “If you try to lose weight by suddenly walking too much, that’s hard on your feet, too, and may lead to other foot problems. So, I often recommend cross-training, including low-impact cardio activities like biking or swimming. You can walk, but try to take it easy and, as always, wear good, supportive shoes. “Hiking shoes are often a good option, particularly if you walk on uneven surfaces, including trails. “They are a little safer than sneakers, and protect your foot and ankle better,” he says (Futurity 22)

Overall, Peden advises if you are having foot pain, seek medical attention. There are many comfort levels amongst people right now when it comes to visiting doctors, but if you are having foot pain, it is best to see an orthopedic doctor as it could be a very easy fix.

By: Beth Gray

https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2022/01/how-avoid-achy-feet-while-working-home/360319/