How To Support Employees Overcoming Addiction

In today’s fast-paced work environment, the line between our personal and professional lives often blurs. This is especially true when we lose sight of our own self-care and adopt a “work hard, play harder” mentality that can contribute to problems with drugs or alcohol. 

Substance use in the workplace is widespread and affects employees across all organizational levels — from the stockroom to the corner office. Addiction can negatively impact employees’ job performance, health, relationships and more, but employers can help individuals who are in recovery or currently struggling with substance use by creating a supportive workplace environment that sets them up for success. Here’s how.  

Creating a Supportive Workplace Environment

Employees in every industry can be affected by substance use and addiction, which profoundly impacts almost every aspect of their personal and professional lives, including workplace productivity. However, recognizing these challenges and offering support is not just about improving job performance — it's about prioritizing the health and well-being of your employees. 

As an employer, you play a critical role in connecting employees with the resources they need for a successful recovery. According to studies, more than 60% of adults with a substance use disorder are employed, putting employers in a unique position to provide a supportive environment that can make a significant difference in helping employees get sober.

If you’re looking to create a more supportive workplace that can help employees overcome addiction, below are a few strategies to consider implementing at your company:

1. Educate Yourself and Your Management Team

The first step in helping employees overcome addiction is educating yourself and your management team about substance use and recovery. This should go beyond the basics and dive into the complexities of addiction as a real mental health concern that affects an individual’s brain and behavior. It’s essential to understand that addiction isn't a choice or a moral failing, but a chronic condition that requires empathy and support.

Investment in comprehensive training programs can equip your management team with the knowledge needed to identify early signs of substance use among employees. Such programs should also cover how to approach and talk to employees with sensitivity and confidentiality, fostering an atmosphere of trust and openness. Supportive communication can encourage employees to seek help and empower them to explore the available resources.

2. Review & Update Drug Policies

If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your company’s drug policies, now might be a good time to review them through the lens of rehabilitation and support. Ensure your drug policies reflect a commitment to recovery and aren’t just punitive. According to HR experts, workplace drug policies should encourage employees who are struggling with substance use to seek help without fear of discrimination or job loss and communicate your dedication to supporting staff members on their recovery journeys. 

3. Consider Becoming a Recovery-Ready Workplace

If you’re dedicated to supporting employees who are in recovery or struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, consider becoming a recovery-ready workplace. Creating recovery-ready workplaces is a White House initiative that aims to connect employers with the resources they need to help individuals in recovery, implement fair hiring practices and policies, and create a workplace culture that supports the health and wellness of all employees. 

4. Facilitate Access to Treatment

Many people experiencing drug or alcohol addiction forgo treatment because they believe it will negatively affect their careers. They might also have concerns about the amount of time they’d have to spend away from work after entering a rehab facility. To help employees overcome this barrier, facilitate access to treatment by supporting the use of PTO, FMLA or a leave of absence so they can focus on their recovery. 

You can also recommend they look into more flexible treatment options that don’t require time away from daily responsibilities, such as an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Other treatment options, such as virtual IOP and standard outpatient care, provide ongoing support, accountability and relapse prevention techniques that can help employees avoid triggers and achieve lasting, sustainable sobriety. 

5. Lead With Compassion

If you suspect an employee has a substance use problem, discussing your concerns with them can be tricky. You want them to be happy and healthy, but you might also be exasperated about missed deadlines, frequent absences and other performance issues. 

When broaching the topic, it’s important to discuss your concerns in a compassionate and caring manner. Use this time to calmly and actively listen without judgment. Then, recommend they take advantage of counseling services, the employee assistance program (EAP) and other company resources to find support. Emphasize that these options are confidential and won’t affect their career path.

Personalized Treatment for Professionals in Recovery

Recognizing the unique challenges faced by professionals struggling with addiction, NorthStar Transitions offers a specialized program tailored to the needs of working adults. Our professionals program understands the high stakes of balancing a demanding career with the recovery process. We provide discreet, flexible treatment options that allow individuals to seek help without stepping away from their professional responsibilities.

We also utilize a holistic approach to addiction recovery, addressing the full scope of each client's physical, mental and emotional needs. Our treatment programs offer a blend of evidence-based therapies, peer support and stress management techniques designed to empower individuals with the tools and coping skills they need to build a strong foundation for lasting recovery.

Get Help Today

Creating a supportive and understanding workplace environment is key to helping employees overcome addiction. If you or someone on your payroll is struggling with substance use, know that recovery is possible with the right help. At NorthStar Transitions in Boulder, Colorado, we specialize in providing professionals like you and your employees with specialized treatment to help them navigate the complexities of recovery without leaving their careers behind. 

To learn more about our programs for working professionals, reach out by calling us at 866-407-2240. You can also get started by clicking here to complete our online contact form and a member of our admissions team will be in touch.

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