Growing Job Opportunities for People in Recovery
Good soil provides solid ground
If you have ever admired a local business’s tidy landscaping or a neighbor’s immaculate lawn, there is a good chance that what caught your eye was the work of Seabreeze Property Services, Maine’s largest landscaping and property management company.
Seabreeze also ranks as one of Maine’s growing number of recovery-friendly workplaces, making it likely that the neatly trimmed greenery that made you stop was the handiwork of someone in active recovery.
The recovery-friendly workplace movement is picking up steam in Maine, but at Seabreeze, extending employment opportunities to people in recovery is a practice that has long been in place.
“When I joined the company over five years ago, people in recovery were already being hired,” says Seabreeze CEO Josh Flynn. Most were referred by temp agencies, and when many of these team members became successful, they started referring more people to us who were coming from a recovery background.”
However, following the drug overdose death of a team member who had relapsed without anyone knowing about it, the company started to view its role in supporting the recovery efforts of team members in a different light.
“We had that moment where we knew … we needed to make the commitment to find resources for our team members struggling with substance use,” says Flynn.
What that means now is that if anyone needs treatment, they can go get it, and when they come back in active recovery, they can come back to their previous position. We’ve had several people take this journey, and it’s really worked out well.”
So well that Flynn estimates 30 to 40 percent of people in management roles at Seabreeze today are also people in recovery.
According to Flynn, a key to Seabreeze’s recovery-friendly workplace success has been accountability. “It’s been an eye-opening experience to finally recognize how prevalent this issue is, but also how much people respond when they get the support they need to hold themselves accountable for their recovery,” he says.
During the hiring process, Flynn is open to explanations of spotty past work history or prior arrests. “You can’t ask, ‘are you in recovery?’” he explains. “But we’re one of those industries, like construction and hospitality, that give people more of a chance. If this is someone who was arrested on a drug charge five years ago, but they explain how they’ve been solidly in recovery since then, we can work with that.”
Flynn has also found the power of people in recovery referring others to Seabreeze who are on a similar path. “This pipeline provides a sense of community. It’s folks supporting each other,” he says. “We have employees in recovery sponsoring others on the team. It’s amazing support.”
Sometimes, it doesn’t work out. When job performance issues develop, such as not showing up for work, it can negatively impact employment, just like it would for any other employee, Flynn says.
“We always ask the question—how can we help you? If the person won’t get help and problems continue to develop, we’re open and upfront about what this means for their employment. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. We’ve even had people come back to us after getting back into recovery. As much as we can, we try to make it work out,” he says.
As for tips for other employers thinking about hiring people in recovery, Flynn recommends being transparent about expectations, while realizing that people in recovery need different forms of support. This might include taking time off for treatment-related appointments or support meetings.
Flynn also thinks it’s important for employers to recognize that while they can empathize with people in recovery, they shouldn’t say they understand what this person is going through if they haven’t walked in these same shoes.
“You will have wonderful experiences hiring people in recovery, but there will also be ups and downs with all of this,” he says. “It’s not on us to judge someone’s journey.”