How to Create a Recovery Friendly Workplace

recovery friendly workplace

More than 21 million people are struggling with addiction which has a tremendous impact on our society – and our workforce. With so many in recovery, it remains in the best interest of employers to become informed about how to help their employees by creating a recovery friendly workplace.

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.

As a manager, the topic of addiction may have you 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 employees from speaking up about their recovery.

As you challenge misconceptions, 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.

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 transformations 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.

To start building a recovery-friendly environment look at your policies and culture. Ask your team, “What policies or benefits do we offer to people struggling with substance use disorder?” and “How do we address substance-related criminal charges in a way that is recovery-friendly?” 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.

Also discuss with your coworkers, “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. 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.

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 his/her story, this sets the example and will empower others to start important conversations, supporting one another throughout your company.

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 and able to offer their talents and skills at work without the fear of shame or stigma.