The Push for ‘Recovery-Ready Workplaces’

In an inspiring initiative, the White House is advocating for the establishment of “recovery-ready workplaces.” This forward-thinking concept aims to support employees who are struggling with substance use disorders or who are in active recovery. It also provides employers with a number of resources for addressing substance use in the workplace and building more supportive environments that help individuals maintain their sobriety.  

At NorthStar Transitions, we take a closer look at the recovery-ready workplace initiative and how it can help employers and employees alike. We believe in the power of transformation that such workplaces can bring, not just in supporting recovery but in enhancing the overall health and well-being of all employees. 

What’s at Stake?

Contrary to popular belief, substance use is widespread in the workforce. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 26.9 million adults who reported having a substance use disorder were employed in 2021, with nearly 78% working full-time. Untreated substance use disorders are costly to employers, resulting in higher turnover, missed workdays, absenteeism, reduced productivity and increased healthcare expenses. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) found that substance use in the workplace costs U.S. employers up to $81 billion each year.

Untreated substance use is also detrimental to the employees struggling with it. Many hide their condition for fear of discipline, termination and loss of advancement opportunities. This creates an unnecessary barrier to seeking help, leaving many trapped in the cycle of addiction. However, recovery-ready workplaces provide employees struggling with drug or alcohol use with support and access to much-needed services, such as treatment.

The White House’s Guidebook

The Biden administration has launched a detailed guidebook for employers wanting to become a recovery-ready workplace. This comprehensive resource outlines strategies for effectively supporting employees dealing with substance use disorders, emphasizing the recruitment of individuals in recovery and fostering a workplace culture that champions their well-being. It is not merely a set of recommendations but a blueprint for cultivating an environment where every employee can thrive and feel supported. 

Key Highlights:

  • Empowering Employees: Strategies to support employees in recovery.
  • Building the Workforce: Hiring practices that favor inclusivity and support.
  • Improving Workplace Culture: Creating an atmosphere that promotes health, understanding and continuous support for all employees, including those in recovery.
  • Recovery-Friendly Policies: Recovery-friendly policies that give employees a second chance if they relapse, connecting them with treatment resources.

What Does a Recovery-Ready Workplace Look Like?

Building a recovery-ready workplace starts with employers adopting policies and practices that expand employment opportunities for those in recovery, facilitating help-seeking among existing employees who are struggling with substance use, ensuring access to treatment services and resources, and providing reasonable accommodations so employees can utilize those resources (such as a flexible work schedule or time off for therapy sessions).

Some ways that employers can implement these changes include:

  • Developing new approaches for recruiting and onboarding people in recovery
  • Using fair-chance hiring and second-chance employment models
  • Encouraging open communication in the workplace to reduce the stigma associated with emotional, mental and behavioral health concerns
  • Establishing teams to lead recovery-ready workplace efforts and initiatives
  • Launching or accommodating peer support networks
  • Providing training and education about substance use disorders at all levels
  • Ensuring access to treatment services or resources through employee assistance programs (EAPs), insurance, wellness initiatives and more
  • Facilitating a clear and successful transition back into the workplace after an employee has completed a treatment program

Recovery-friendly workplaces don’t allow drug or alcohol use on the job — they focus on preventing and reducing substance use. However, relapses are handled differently. Instead of policies that result in employees with positive urine screens being disciplined or fired, they are connected with treatment services and given a second chance. Relapses are regarded the same way that a recurrence of symptoms of any other medical condition would be. 

Leading By Example

Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is passionate about the administration's commitment to tackling the opioid crisis and promoting workplaces that are ready to support people in recovery. He believes that having a job is about more than earning a paycheck — it’s about feeling respected and valued, finding a sense of purpose and building a support system that truly cares. The push for creating recovery-ready workplaces is about developing spaces where anyone can succeed professionally and personally, helping to build stronger, more compassionate communities.

Leadership plays an essential role in shaping a supportive workplace culture. Leaders and managers are instrumental in developing an atmosphere where individuals feel heard, understood and supported in their recovery journey. However, this commitment extends beyond policy implementation and means leading with kindness and actively striving to make workplaces more welcoming. When this happens, the entire organization comes together to support a work environment that’s not only productive but is also nurturing and healing.

Benefits of a Recovery-Ready Workplace

Creating a recovery-ready workplace is a compassionate decision, but it’s also good business. Employees who work in a supportive environment that prioritizes their well-being report feeling safe, seen and heard, and that their contributions are valued.

One of the biggest changes seen in companies that embrace recovery-friendly policies is an increase in workplace morale. When employees in recovery are supported and understood, it leads to increased productivity and improved job satisfaction. It also promotes a stronger workforce by creating more loyal employees who feel engaged and motivated to do well. 

Other benefits of a recovery-ready workplace include:

  • Increased access to needed support services
  • Improved employee well-being
  • Reduced risk of substance use 
  • Lower turnover and reduced costs of hiring new workers
  • More employment opportunities for those in recovery
  • Stability for both employers and employees

Embracing practices that support the health and well-being of employees not only aids in building a more inclusive society but also enhances the company's reputation, making it an employer-of-choice for forward-thinking, socially responsible individuals. This approach to business can transform workplaces, turning them into environments where every person has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to their fullest potential.

NorthStar Transitions Supports Employees in Recovery

At NorthStar Transitions, we understand the unique challenges of employees struggling with substance use. We provide specialized treatment programs designed with the needs of working professionals in mind, offering a flexible, confidential and comprehensive approach to recovery. Our goal is to integrate personal and professional development to help individuals stay employed, achieve their treatment goals and build a healthy, sober lifestyle.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance use and is seeking a supportive pathway back to health and professional well-being, we invite you to reach out to us. NorthStar Transitions is committed to providing the resources and support necessary to foster recovery, resilience, and renewal in the workplace. Get started by calling us today at 866-407-2240 or completing our online contact form. Let us partner with you to create a brighter, more stable future.

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