Urgent action is needed to combat America’s addiction crisis, and the workplace can play a significant role in this fight. Findings from Fors Marsh‘s 2022 Workplace Recovery Survey reveal that employers can serve as a crucial support system for employees who are in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). The report outlines actionable data and recommendations that organizational leaders and human resources personnel can use immediately to assess the extent to which their employees are aware of and feel safe seeking support. With one in 11 U.S. employees living with SUD and a similar number in recovery, the data underscore the need for urgent action among employers to create a recovery-friendly workplace environment.
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Fors Marsh, a Certified B Corporation, released the findings as the company’s most recent step in its multiyear investment to drive change in our nation’s support of those battling addiction and in recovery from SUD. The inaugural survey data can help government agencies, nonprofits, employers, and employees reduce workplace barriers that might interfere with substance use recovery. Fors Marsh is currently convening key stakeholders who represent employers, unions, human resources administrators, and regulatory agencies to design unified guidelines and policies for improving recovery readiness in the workplace.
“Recovery-friendly workplaces are vital to people living with SUD, and employees in recovery are vital to thriving businesses,” said Ben Garthwaite, Fors Marsh’s CEO. “The workplace is too often overlooked as an essential source of support to the over 14 million U.S. workers in recovery. Our research lays bare the role business leaders can and must play to close this gap.” The survey identifies compelling data and relevant actions that can have an immediate effect on recovery support in the workplace:
- Educate: Fewer than one-third of employees know that their health benefits cover SUD treatment or recovery support. Supervisors and managers should highlight these benefits often through multiple communication channels.
- Communicate: Nearly half of employees said they would be willing to talk to their supervisor or manager if they need help with SUD. Keeping managers informed about company benefits and policies and providing training about how to speak to employees about SUD, improves employees’ health by increasing benefit utilization; these steps also provide reassurance that all workers are valued.
- Encourage: Empowering employees in recovery and those with family members in recovery to hold on-site support meetings before, after, or during work provides encouragement for people living with SUD, discourages discrimination and stigma, and normalizes SUD recovery.
- Facilitate: Finding ways to hire qualified applicants in recovery, such as ending policies that act as barriers to employment and retention, can help reduce employee turnover by demonstrating a company’s commitment to all its workers.
The National Drug Control Strategy released by the White House last year listed building a recovery-ready nation as one of its principal objectives and outlined specific actions to “expand employment opportunities and promote recovery-ready workplace policies.” The 2022 U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being highlights critical components of a healthy workplace, such as protection from harm, connection and community, and work–life harmony. Findings from Fors Marsh’s Workplace Recovery Survey are consistent with both the Strategy and the Framework and reinforce the importance of healthy workplaces as a valuable source of support for people in recovery.
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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) administers federal programs that support community organizations working to help people in recovery. Tom Coderre, SAMHSA’s acting deputy assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, said, “Enabling workers in recovery to thrive in jobs with employer support will save lives and reduce suffering, sickness, and absenteeism, and it turns out it’s also great for business. Fors Marsh’s data affirms the general direction and priority that SAMHSA has placed on workplace recovery support are, in fact, needed.”
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