BlueLionAdmin/ May 4, 2020/ Blog

As a New Hampshire business owner, you are likely familiar with—and have possibly even been affected by—the opioid crisis in relation to your workplace. 

According to the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative, untreated addiction costs New Hampshire’s economy $2.36 billion. Businesses take on 66% ($1.5 billion) of that cost in the form of impaired productivity and absenteeism.

Although these numbers may seem daunting at first, there are now many programs and resources for companies that want to make a difference by becoming a Recovery Friendly Workplace (RFW). Making these positive changes will establish your business as one that cares about its community and takes action to help individuals in their recovery process.

Read on to discover:

  • What an RFW is
  • Why it is important
  • How it works
  • How to create your own RFW
  • Policies you’ll need (and how we can help!)

What is a Recovery Friendly Workplace?

According to the RFW Initiative, an RFW is a business that supports its community by recognizing recovery from substance use disorder as a strength and by being willing to work intentionally with people in recovery.

RFWs foster a healthy and safe environment where employers, employees, and communities to work together to create positive change and remove barriers for those impacted by addiction. 

RFWs use evidence-based practices and drug and alcohol policies that demonstrate an understanding of substance use disorder.

Why Is It Important?

With over 60,000 Granite Staters in recovery, there are many employees and customers on this long and challenging road. 

You can support your employees by creating a healthier and safer environment, encouraging their successful recovery. Becoming an RFW will show your community and customers that your business cares about them by directly addressing addiction and behavioral health.

Additionally, workplaces that utilize evidence-based health and safety policies and programs recruit and retain a healthier, more productive, and more motivated workforce. These programs may even lower costs like:

  • Healthcare expenses 
  • Costs associated with missed work 
  • Costs of employee hiring and retraining

With the state of the labor market, your business may not be in a position to turn away promising candidates. Companies today need to strike a balance between maintaining a safe working environment and hiring good employees.

How Does It Work?

The RFW Initiative offers comprehensive guidance and training for businesses interested in becoming RFWs. You will work with Recovery Friendly Advisors (RFAs) who will help you develop and sustain RFW Initiative in your workplace. They will equip you with information and resources to promote health, well-being, and recovery among employees and their family members.

As an RFW, you will provide education and review of your company’s alcohol, tobacco, and other drug policies upon hire and annually. We’ll dive more into these policies a bit later.

RFAs will consult with employers to plan trainings to help them identify and appropriately handle substance misuse, behavioral health, and addiction issues. These trainings are always tailored to your company’s needs.

How to Make Your Business Recovery Friendly

Substance use disorder and the recovery process is a sensitive topic, so where can you start making changes in your workplace to support those in recovery? 

A good first step lies in the culture. Change the language you use: Instead of using terms like “drug abuse” or “substance abuse,” use the phrase “substance use disorder.” This terminology reduces the stigma for those struggling with or taking steps toward recovery.

What other programs and routine support can you put in place to become recovery friendly?

Onsite Counseling

For certain professions (e.g.: manual labor workers), it is difficult to make appointments in traditional healthcare settings. Your business could bring an onsite counselor or provide remote counseling for both scheduled and on-demand recovery support (on-demand could be used during work breaks). This would help more people get the help they need by eliminating fear and encouraging participation.

Peer Support Groups

Group therapy appointments also typically occur during the business day. Incorporating peer support groups into the daily schedule, however, can help build a culture of mutual support thanks to open and safe discussions with coworkers who are also in recovery.

A Trained Supervisor

An RFW trained supervisor understands the challenges and needs of people in recovery—including the fact that slip-ups are a part of the process. They will know that a positive drug test indicates the need for more counseling support and closer monitoring, rather than immediate termination.

Onsite Drug Testing and Telepsychiatry

Regular onsite drug testing (where appropriate) can ensure safer work environments and indicate when individuals need more support. It also prevents the need for an individual to leave in the middle of the day for a medication appointment or to provide required toxicology testing for their program.

Offering telepsychiatry visits in a secure room onsite also enables people to get assessed regularly and helps prevent missed doses of recovery medications like buprenorphine.

For free in-depth guidance and training on how to become an RFW, you can submit a letter of interest to the Governor’s Office. A representative will meet with you and help walk you through the process with your organization’s specific needs in mind. Visit the RFW Initiative website for more information on how to become an official Recovery Friendly Workplace in New Hampshire.

What Policies Do You Need?

Now that you’re on your way to becoming recovery friendly, it’s time to reevaluate your policies. Your drug and alcohol policy should at least: 

  • Prohibit the use, possession, sale, distribution, or manufacture of drugs and drug paraphernalia at work
  • Forbid employees from reporting to work while under the influence
  • Reserve the right to conduct searches of workspaces upon reasonable suspicion
  • Ensure compliance with applicable federal and state laws

Consider what makes the most sense regarding your recruitment and retention goals. Although you can elect a zero-tolerance policy, many companies are moving away from this to keep up with major shifts like the legalization of marijuana.

To become an effective recovery friendly employer and carry out the support programs listed above, you’ll want to establish other policies that focus on:

  • Workplace education and outreach
  • Coordination with an employee assistance program and wellness programs
  • Supervisor training
  • HR support
  • Confidential access to peer recovery support

Be sure your policies are specific and you are consistent in your practices regarding substance recovery disorder issues. 

“Remember that supervisors are your eyes and ears,” Sheehan Phinney attorney James Reidy advised at the 2018 SHRM Employment Law & Legislative Conference. When the rest of your team is properly trained, it will make all the difference for a successful Recovery Friendly Workplace.

Making Your NH Business Recovery Friendly

If you need help updating your policies or creating new ones to accommodate your new RFW goals, BlueLion can help through our policy development services! We also provide Human Resource on-call service, perfect for small New Hampshire businesses that have either a very small or no internal HR department. 

Call us at 603-818-4131 or email us at [email protected] to learn more about establishing a recovery friendly environment today!

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