Promoting Sobriety in the Workplace

Dan Matthews

Although its effects can be hidden, substance abuse is one of the most common social issues affecting the modern workforce. According to research, more than 20 million American adults are in recovery from some type of substance use disorder. What’s more, the bulk of those individuals are part of the national labor force. Individuals in recovery often find that their otherwise dynamic workplace serves as a trigger of sorts, especially during networking sessions and similar events. 

The issue is so prevalent that top-tier companies and regional governments alike have taken notice. Connecticut’s Department of Labor, for example, offers employers a comprehensive online toolkit for promoting a workplace that’s recovery-friendly. 

For starters, employers should remain flexible and be willing to step in at a moment’s notice to assist employees in recovery who may be struggling. Consider providing mental health days to struggling workers who need a breather. You may also want to take a hard look at your workplace culture and the ways that alcohol is part of it, addressing any glaring issues.

Whatever route you take to promote sobriety, here’s what employers and managers across industries need to know about building a workplace culture that’s inclusive and safe for people in recovery: 

Photo licensed by Unsplash and provided by Dan Matthews.

How to Build a Strong (but Dry) Workplace Culture

Your employees in every stage of recovery have the right to feel safe in the workplace rather than burdened by their addiction. The unfortunate reality is that addiction often carries a negative stigma. Recovering workers are thus likely to hide their previous substance abuse from their coworkers and managers alike.  

As such, it’s your duty as a compassionate employer to build a strong workplace culture that’s free from alcohol and other illicit substances – a “dry” environment. Start with your networking strategy. To better promote sobriety in the workplace, consider hosting dry networking events for your team, where the focus is truly on building work relationships rather than getting intoxicated. 

Further, make sure to maintain your healthy networking and workplace culture strategies over time, ensuring a continued safe environment for employees in recovery. You can’t completely take away workplace triggers, but dry networking events may help reduce stress among your employees.

Reducing Employee Stress via Workplace Wellness

Even for those of us who love what we do, the workplace can be stressful. For individuals in recovery, stressful situations at work – like a looming deadline or an unsatisfied customer – can be powerful triggers, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. 

While you can’t mandate that your workers give up alcohol entirely, you can offer incentives and implement initiatives in the name of employee wellness. For the greatest benefit, workplace wellness programs should be tailored to the personal needs of your employees as well as their overall goals, including substance abuse recovery. Via wellness initiatives, workers can build healthy habits over the long term. 

To keep workplace anxiety low and cravings at bay, employers can also offer stress leave to those in recovery. Even just a few days off can make a huge difference for stressed-out workers on the brink of relapse. During periods of stress leave, whether paid or unpaid, employees are encouraged to prioritize self-care and get the professional support they need.

Key Takeaways

Recovering from substance abuse is a personal journey, and it’s often a difficult one. Triggers can come from everywhere, including the workplace. But that’s not the whole story. Employers can support workers in recovery by providing mental health days, implementing wellness programs, and offering other forms of assistance as appropriate.

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.