Last Updated on March 20, 2023 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Hear us out for a moment: there are many ways employers can improve the workplace for a recovering addict—and many reasons that it’s worth doing.

Substance abuse and addiction can cost any workplace a lot. Employees who use illicit drugs, drink heavily, or abuses prescription medications are more likely to make mistakes or be injured on the job. They are more likely to have conflicts with coworkers and supervisors, and miss work. For all of these reasons, businesses work hard to create drug-free workplaces, and they should.

However, they should also stay compassionate toward those struggling with addiction, and especially toward employees in recovery. Those employees are dedicated, hard workers who can achieve incredible things with the right support. Addiction is a health issue, a disease like any other—one that can strike anyone, and even the best employees. Giving your employees in recovery every chance to succeed pays off, for them, and for the business.

Recovery Employees Can Be a Major Asset

The idea that a person in recovery might make a great employee might not be intuitive, but research supports this idea. According to Psych Central, people recovering from addiction often: take fewer sick days; are highly motivated to succeed and get their old lives back; and feel more loyalty to their employers for giving them a second chance.

Most recovering addicts abstain from alcohol and drugs completely, so they don’t party after work or on the weekends. This means fewer late mornings and higher productivity. 12 stepping people as well as others following other programs are usually committed to an honest approach with people in their lives, including their employers and coworkers, and this makes them easier to work with. Recovering from addiction also makes self-care like better nutrition and a bedtime routine for sleep a necessity, and this frequently means improved focus and increased productivity at work.

Supporting Recovering Employees

One of the toughest issues that is inherent to addiction is denial. Many who are in the throes of addiction and alcoholism just can’t admit that they have a problem—or, if they can, how serious it really is. This means that an addict who has cleared this hurdle and entered recovery has already overcome one of the hardest parts of the process.

Encourage employees who reach out for help and treatment to use their benefits without penalties, confidentially. It’s fine—and actually helpful—to let your employees know that they are accountable. If they don’t take advantage of their benefits or seek the recovery and treatment they need, let them know that there will be consequences, including the possible loss of their job.

Following Up After Treatment

As anyone who’s been through recovery treatment knows, getting through is really just the first part of the journey. For this reason, it’s important to follow up with your employee in recovery once they’ve gone through treatment. In some cases, it might be smart to move an employee who has recently finished treatment into a position that is less stressful. They might also benefit from devoting leave time to counseling sessions or meetings; if they don’t have PTO, consider allowing them time off without penalizing them.

Why Work Matters

For people who beat addiction and get through recovery, getting back to work means a lot. It means routine, self-worth, reliable income, and a positive circle of acquaintances. Unfortunately, not everyone in recovery gets a second chance at their original workplace; not everyone is willing to help someone in recovery.

Experts agree that work is a critical piece of recovery over the long-term. Paid work is usually what we think about in this context, but even volunteer work can help people in recovery if it’s meaningful and it tides them over until a paycheck is available to them. Gainful employment helps people in sustain their recovery, realize goals, improve relationships, and build their social and financial stability.

Advantages of employment that are absent during the addiction lifestyle include; steady income; the ability to live independently; stability; financial responsibility; ability to maintain a place in a community; ability to run a household; constructive use of time; opportunity for personal and professional growth; a ready store of self-confidence and self-esteem; the ability to build trust; a feeling of accomplishment; and the ability to be self-sufficient.

It’s not hard to understand why experts see work as so central to sustaining recovery.

The Recovering Employee

Hiring people who are recovering from addictions can truly be a win-win situation for businesses. You can improve your workplace, gain a productive, loyal employee, and help someone regain their life. There will always be people searching for a second chance, and businesses who need people who are willing to be honest and work hard. Maybe it’s time to take advantage of that natural fit and improve your workplace for recovering addicts.