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How Employers Can Create A Recovery-Friendly Workplace

More than 21 million people are struggling with addiction. Aside from the personal turmoil addiction causes, it also causes up to 70% of all workplace productivity loss which experts estimate costs society more than $442 billion per year.

Addiction has a tremendous impact on our society – and our workforce. And with the numbers of those in recovery in the millions, it remains in the best interest of employers to become informed about how to help employees recover.

Employers often have many false beliefs about the recovery community, which may be caused by longstanding misconceptions about addiction. No matter if your business is small or large, it’s important to challenge false beliefs, learn to understand recovery and adjust your company culture to be supportive, compassionate, and most of all, recovery-friendly.

Common Misconceptions

If you’re an employer, the topic of addiction may bring up thoughts about potential employees. You may be concerned about theft, missed working days or bad behavior – but it’s important to learn about recovery and how stigma may be playing a role in forming these beliefs. Stigma is one of the top deterrents to people seeking help, and can be a barrier that prevents people from speaking up about their recovery in the workplace.

As you challenge misconceptions as an employer, here are key things to remember about recovery:

  • The values of recovery transform a person. Recovery is founded on the principles of honesty, acceptance and continuous growth and humility. When you build a recovery-inclusive culture in the workplace, you allow those in recovery to be proud of their skills. As your people feel more included and proud to be themselves, the values of recovery will become more apparent throughout their work. They may even become champions of important conversations in the workplace that others need to hear, like mental health policies or prioritizing wellness.
  • Recovery is possible. While it may seem like adopting the “once an addict, always an addict” belief is safer to eliminate potential risk to your business, it’s simply not true. Today, there are more than 23 million people living in active recovery, serving as living proof that second chances and life-changing transformation are possible.
  • You will learn valuable lessons from a diverse perspective. The recovery community is diverse, and it’s likely that someone who’s been through the throes of addiction has a story to tell and lessons to share. Diversity in the workplace is one of the greatest assets of a good company, and bringing in people with recovery experiences is no different.

Creating a Recovery-Friendly Workplace

If this is new to your company and you have room to improve, here are a few ways to start building a recovery-friendly environment:

  • Look at Your Policies.
    Ask your team, “What policies or benefits to we offer to people struggling with substance use disorder?” or “How do we address substance-related criminal charges in a way that is recovery-friendly?”
    Each of these questions will not only help shift your thinking, but can help set up important policies and safeguards for addiction and recovery in the workplace. Whether it’s better health benefits for mental health or substance abuse treatment, or a compassionate action-plan if one of your employees gets a DUI and needs support, it’s important to have guiding policies that can serve as the groundwork for effective conversation and honesty.
  • Analyze Your Culture.
    Ask your team, “How can we promote a culture conducive to recovery and mental health?”
    You may be surprised by the ideas shared with you. Whether it’s promoting work-life balance, having honest conversations or brown bag lunches to learn more about one another, tap into the perspectives of your people. Make sure you’re building a culture others can be proud to be a part of, and crowdsource ideas to make sure mental health, addiction and recovery are talked about honestly. Creating safety around these often vulnerable topics will transform your workplace and will further cultivate trust with your team.
  • Think About Your Leadership.
    Perhaps one of the most important elements of creating a recovery-friendly workplace is through having bold leaders willing to set an example from the top-down. If you have a leader who’s in active recovery and is willing to tell their story, encourage them to share and create the opportunity for them to do so. Having a leader set the example will empower others to start important conversations, supporting one another throughout all levels of your company.

Enriching Your Company Culture

Recovery can be a transformative process for those who experience it, and often, these individuals bring a wealth of skills, talents and character to the workplace that has the potential to benefit your entire company culture for the better.

Being an employer supportive of the recovery community will not only ensure that those struggling are offered understanding and support, but will help those living in long-term recovery be empowered, offering their talents and skills at work without the fear of shame or stigma. And with more than 45 million people impacted by addiction or recovery across the nation, this is an important conversation worth having – one that could save lives and transform your company.


Images Courtesy of iStock

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