Civilian employee exercise program offers increased holistic fitness

By Eric PilgrimJune 11, 2024

FORT KNOX, Ky. — The U.S. Army offers a fitness program for civilian employees that can get them away from their desks during duty hours and into shape.

Titled Army Directive 2021-03 (Army Civilian Fitness and Health Promotion Program), the offering by Army leaders allows employees three hours of administrative leave each week to burn off stress and increase productivity.

“The goal of the program is to enhance the health fitness, and quality of life of Department of the Army Civilians while increasing organizational wellness and mission productivity,” according to the policy. “Evidence indicates that employees afforded an opportunity to participate in fitness and health promotion programs experience increased readiness and resiliency, enhanced morale, increased productivity, reduced sick leave use, and increased job and life satisfaction.”

Civilian employee exercise program offers increased holistic fitness
Linda Morgan, who participates in the Army’s physical fitness administrative leave program, said she her recent Spartan Beast event in Indiana proved to her that the program has really worked to improve her overall health and wellbeing. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Linda Morgan) VIEW ORIGINAL

One Fort Knox employee who has participated in the program for the past two years said she couldn’t agree more.

“I started doing it in 2022 once I changed jobs,” said Linda Morgan, budget analyst at Fort Knox Garrison Resource Management Directorate. “I realized that my quality of life and work-life balance was way off, and I had a lot of stress.”

Morgan said she elected to take two hours each week – one on Wednesdays and the other on Fridays – to work out rather than the maximum allowed three per week.

“I noticed that it definitely helped out,” said Morgan. “I incorporated that with my 15-minute break and lunch so I could focus on my work-life balance. My quality of life and my morale improved, and I didn’t feel as burned out.”

While the program applies generally to government employees, that does not include Title 32 Army National Guard technicians and Title 5-coded civilians assigned to duty with the National Guard Bureau, Army National Guard or their field operating locations.

As well, the program, which is voluntary, requires that a mutual agreement must be reached between employees and their supervisors. The employee also must self-certify that they are in good enough physical health to handle the workouts. Employees who are on a performance improvement plan, or PIP, are not eligible.

“Your performance has to be good before you can participate,” said Morgan.

Those who do participate in the program will chart their time on bi-weekly timecards by selecting “Administrative Leave” on the corresponding days and sub-coding the Environmental/Hazard/Other blocks as “PF,” which stands for “physical fitness.” Employees must report to their workstations before and after the admin leave times. The leave does not count against annual or sick leave.

“It used to be that you could only use it once in your career, but now you can use it continuously every year,” said Morgan. “You just have that cap of three hours a week and no more than 80 hours in a calendar year.”

Morgan said about 20 Fort Knox Garrison employees are currently taking advantage of the program so far.

“Everybody thinks it’s been very positive, just to have that mental break,” said Morgan. “The feeling of wellness carries over into every role in your life.”

The program has given Morgan the confidence to supplement her exercise regimen with trail runs and obstacle course events.

“I actually just did a Spartan Beast in Indiana on Saturday [June 8],” said Morgan. “It’s been my third event this year.”

Morgan said she can understand if employees feel guilty or hesitant about taking advantage of the program. Her advice is for those who would like to get involved in it to understand the bigger picture.

“Taking care of yourself is the best thing that you can do for yourself and others,” said Morgan. “Maybe start small – do a half an hour, or just one hour a week. Commit to something that feels realistic or doable. That momentum will build, and you’ll see how it carries over mentally, physically and spiritually and ties right into the Army’s personal readiness pillars.

“You’ll feel better about yourself in everything.”