Workplace Culture for the Recovering Addict
Once you have made it through treatment for drug or alcohol addiction and are in recovery, often, attention turns to transitioning back to the workplace or securing new employment. Returning to work or finding a job are important steps in your recovery.
However, not every career or workplace is ideal for those recovering from addiction. Workplace culture can play a key role in encouraging a clean and healthy lifestyle.
Addiction and Career Choice
Naturally, there are some careers that increase the risk of addiction. Professionals that work in the food service, medical, entertainment, and legal fields tend to have a higher risk of addiction. In some cases, easier access to prescription drugs, long work hours, and stressful job requirements provide the perfect storm.
However, in some cases, the workplace culture actually encourages drug or alcohol use. For example, in the legal profession, alcohol use is encouraged as part of client–lawyer meetings, retreats and seminars, and office celebrations.
Creating a Workplace Culture of Recovery
When you are in recovery, the last thing you want to worry about is your workplace culture standing in the way of your sober lifestyle. The following are some ideas of workplace culture practices that encourage recovery rather than addiction.
Drug-Free Workplace Policies
It seems obvious that workplaces should be drug-free, but a surprising number, even inadvertantly, encourage drug and alcohol use. Office parties or meetings where alcohol is served, for example, can be difficult for those in recovery to attend.
A workplace that encourages recovery should have policies in place that prohibit alcohol or drug use on the job. This includes during conferences, meals with clients, and on-the-clock celebrations.
Drug-free workplace policies should be put in writing and include educational opportunities for employees to learn about substance abuse symptoms and treatment options, training for employees and supervisors in identifying signs of substance abuse or working while impaired, policies for drug testing, and a plan for assisting those who show signs of substance abuse.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
Sometimes, having access to support and counseling can make a significant difference during the recovery period. Employee Assistance Programs can provide easy, confidential, and affordable access to much-needed support for all employees, including those in recovery. EAPs can also provide a safety net for the recovering addict in times of stress. They can offer short-term counseling and appropriate referrals in an effort to reduce the likelihood of a relapse.
Offering Comprehensive Mental and Physical Healthcare and Substance Abuse Treatment Benefits
Treatment for substance abuse doesn’t end when the employee leaves the rehab facility. In fact, recovery often involves years of mental health counseling, support groups, and physical recovery. Offering comprehensive mental and physical healthcare benefits can ensure that those in recovery continue to have access to important resources necessary to recover.
Encourage Employee Wellness
When employees are feeling physically and mentally well, the risk of substance abuse decreases. Enacting work-life balance programs, meetings while walking outdoors, discounts for gym memberships, stress-reduction opportunities, and incentives for healthy choices encourages employees to strive to make safe choices and focus on mental and physical health.
Combat Stigma and Encourage Treatment
A workplace culture where the stigma of seeking help for mental illness, stress, or substance abuse is essential in recovery. Employees who are afraid of losing their jobs for seeking treatment tend to hide their mental illness or addictions until the issue becomes an urgent situation. It is important for employers to make sure employees understand that they can seek treatment confidentially without risking losing their jobs.
Flexible Work Hours for Treatment
Even during recovery, you will likely have support group meetings, therapy appointments, or other urgent matters. The ideal workplace culture for your recovery is one that allows for flexible work hours. That way, you can attend your appointments and support groups without facing consequences at work. Employers that encourage or require support group attendance and monitoring as a condition of your return to work show dedication and a willingness to help you in your recovery.
Prioritize Positive Feedback
Finally, the ideal workplace culture for your recovery is one that prioritizes positive feedback. During your addiction, you were likely bombarded with thoughts, feelings, or even messages from others that were negative and harmful to your self-esteem. It is important for you to rebuild your self-esteem. A workplace where employers and employees pride themselves in positive interactions, clear expectations, and open communication can help you feel safe, valued, and committed to carrying out your responsibilities.
Returning to work can be a major milestone in your recovery process. By seeking out the right workplace culture, one that encourages your recovery and prioritizes employee mental and physical wellbeing – your transition back to work can be a positive and rewarding experience.