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Recovery Friendly Workplaces

Issue 16

Good for Employees and Good for Business

I’m always looking for good guys to hire. I got involved with the Recovery Friendly Workplace because I was that guy in recovery looking for a job,” says Keith Hornberger, owner of New Hampshire-based KHH Contracting. “All I needed was an opportunity to change my life.”

Launched in 2018 by Governor Chris Sununu, New Hampshire’s Recovery Friendly Workplace (RFW) initiative equips employers with the knowledge and tools they need to better understand substance use disorder (SUD) and support employees who have been impacted. This includes employees who are in recovery, seeking recovery, or have a loved one with SUD.

Experience and research prove that sound employment greatly aids people in recovery by giving them structure, purpose, and financial stability. Being recovery friendly isn’t just good for employees though; it’s also good for business.

Research by the nonpartisan and objective research organization NORC at the University of Chicago and the National Safety Council (NSC) found that for each employee who recovers from SUD, the company that employs them saves an average of over $8,500.

The study also found that employees in recovery miss fewer days than their colleagues. More specifically, compared to employees with an untreated SUD, employees in recovery miss 13.7 fewer days each year, and compared to an average employee, they miss 3.6 fewer days per year.

Beyond these financial benefits, is the workplace primed to effectively support an employee’s recovery?

As it turns out, it is.

Put simply, work is one of the most influential places where we can reach people.

According to research published by the American Psychiatric Association’s journal, Psychiatric Services, employer-initiated treatment was associated with longer treatment stays and better abstinence outcomes (compared to treatment that was not employer-initiated).

The reason for this could be that while sustaining recovery often involves external and internal motivation, the workplace provides a compelling source of external motivation upon which internal motivation can be built.

Workplaces can also help normalize the recovery conversation by letting employees know about a variety of community-based, mutual-aid free recovery resources; this may help employees get connected to the support they need sooner rather than later.

Currently, RFW is working with over 280 businesses in New Hampshire representing about 70,000 employees. One of these is Maine-based Kennebunk Savings, which has officially been designated as a Recovery Friendly Workplace. Kennebunk Savings has excelled at creating a culture of support for those impacted by SUD, both at its workplaces and in the community through the SUD-related programs they fund. RFW has also connected with over 20 states that are working on implementing similar initiatives, and it is bringing on additional workplaces with one or more New Hampshire locations to participate in this no-cost, stigma-challenging, and life-changing movement.

If your business is interested in becoming more recovery friendly, here are three actions you can take:

1. Become educated about Maine’s SUD support by calling 2-1-1 or visiting 211maine.org.
2. Make your next work event recovery friendly by either designating it as a sober
event or highlighting fun non-alcoholic options.
3. Regularly vocalize your commitment to employee health (including mental health) and well-being and name some concrete offerings in your workplace that support it.

To participate in the Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative or learn more, visit recoveryfriendlyworkplace.com. RFW is currently working with businesses that have one or more New Hampshire locations, but is happy to connect non-NH-based workplaces to resources that may be helpful.

Together, we can make a difference and strengthen our workplaces in the process.

Samantha Lewandowski, MS is the assistant director of New Hampshire’s Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative. With a background in community development, she is particularly interested in showcasing how recovery-friendly efforts not only create healthier communities, but also help us build stronger workplaces in the process.

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