Embracing Addiction Recovery In The Workplace
When the time comes that you have completed treatment for drug or alcohol addiction and you are finally in the recovery phase, you will inevitably begin to think about once again returning to work, or finding new employment. This is an important milestone in your recovery journey.
Unfortunately, not every choice of career or workplace is conducive to addiction recovery. The culture of the workplace can play a vital role in encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
Addiction and your choice of career
As you can imagine, there are certain careers that will naturally increase the risk of addiction. For example, those who work in food/catering, medical, entertainment and legal fields are likely to be more at risk of abusing alcohol or other substances.
This is in part due to the easy access they might have to prescription medications, lengthy working hours and a stressful working environment. Anyone of these might act as a catalyst for addiction.
In certain circumstances, workplace culture actually encourages drug or alcohol use. For example, in the legal profession, individuals will actively engage in alcohol consumption as part of client-lawyer meetings, and of course when celebrating a courtroom win.
Creating a culture of recovery in the workplace
Once you are in recovery, you will not want to have the worry the potential workplace culture has to jeopardise your new-found, addiction-free lifestyle. There are a few workplace practices that actively encourage recovery rather than addiction.
We discuss these factors below:
1. Drug-Free Workplace Policies
Whilst it might be stating the obvious that workplaces should be drug-free, sadly there is a surprising number that will continue to encourage drug or alcohol use. For example, the office party, or late night meetings where alcohol is accepted, can be troublesome for those in recovery.
Those workplaces that are encouraging of recovery, should have in place particular policies that prohibit drug use. This should specifically include during conferences, meals and other less formal meetings with clients and of course during celebrations.
Drug-free workplace policies should be formally put in writing, reviewed regularly and include opportunities for employees to be educated about the risk of substance abuse, symptoms and treatment options. There should equally be policies regarding drug or alcohol testing in the workplace and plan for supporting those who are identified as substance misusers.
2. Employee Support
Having access to support and counselling can make a substantial difference when an individual is in recovery. Employee Assistance Programs are a way of providing confidential access to support for all employees, including those in recovery.
These programs also have the potential to provide a safety net for the recovering addict during periods of stress. They offer short-term counselling and if necessary, appropriate referrals as a means of reducing the likelihood of a relapse.
Benefits of providing healthcare and treatment options
When it comes to substance abuse, treatment doesn’t end when the employee leaves the rehab and treatment centre. This is just a small part of the journey; recovery often involves years of mental health counselling, support groups, and physical recovery.
By providing comprehensive mental and physical healthcare benefits employers can ensure those in recovery continue to have access to important resources necessary to recover, mitigating the chances of relapse.
Encourage Employee Wellness
When employees are feeling physically and mentally well, the risk of substance abuse decreases.
Providing work-life balance, for example by providing the opportunity for meetings while walking outdoors, discounted gym memberships, stress management support, and incentives for healthy choices actively encourage individuals to make positive choices beneficial for physical and mental health.
Encouraging treatment and combatting stigma
A workplace culture where the individuals are able to seek help or advice for mental illness, stress, or substance abuse is essential during their recovery.
Those who are afraid of losing their jobs for asking for help tend to hide their mental illness or addictions until the issue becomes a crisis situation.
It is vital that employers ensure their employees understand that they ask for help without the fear of losing their jobs.
Flexible Hours to work around Treatment
Even during recovery, an employee will likely need to attend support group meetings and therapy appointments. The ideal workplace culture for recovery is one that allows flexible working hours that support the need to attend such appointments and support groups without facing consequences.
Those employers who actively encourage or require support group attendance and monitoring as a condition of return to work show dedication and a willingness to help in the recovery process.
Ultimately, the ideal workplace culture for addiction recovery is one that prioritises positive feedback. Whilst they were addicts, individuals were likely overwhelmed with negative and harmful thoughts, feelings, or even messages from others that have impacted on their self-esteem.
It is crucial that employers provide an environment that helps to rebuild their self-esteem.
A work environment where employers and employees pride themselves in positive relationships, clear expectations and boundaries and open communication help them to feel safe and valued and make them feel more committed to carrying out their responsibilities.
Returning to work can be a major milestone in your recovery journey. But by seeking out the right workplace culture, one that actively encourages recovery, and makes employee mental and physical wellbeing a priority – your transition back to work can be a positive and rewarding experience.