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Create a Recovery Supportive Workplace Culture

Your company culture is a set of shared values that define how you and your employees work together. By taking steps to create a recovery supportive workplace culture, you can support employees who are in recovery from substance use disorder and show all of your employees that you care about their well-being.

Educate your employees

By talking about substance use openly, you can create a culture of support and understanding — and help to end the stigma.

The first step is to educate your employees about substance use disorder, and the common signs of substance use. Consider covering these topics in training for new hires and offering a refresher course for current employees at least once a year. Let your employees know they can always come to you if they need help or if they’re concerned for a coworker’s well-being.

You can also help your employees find the support they need by sharing resources. Direct employees to these treatment and recovery resources for information on medication-assisted treatment, residential recovery programs, and mental health support.

Use stigma-free language

When it comes to talking about substance use, word choice matters. By using language that frames substance use as a health problem rather than a moral or personal failure, you can help to end the stigma and create a more supportive environment.

If you hear your employees using stigmatizing words, take the opportunity to suggest more appropriate language.

Offer recovery supportive employee benefits

Consider making changes to your employee benefits to better support employees who are seeking help for substance use or in recovery.

Employee benefits can be a powerful tool in creating a supportive company culture. Offering robust benefits can help to reduce absences, increase productivity, and boost retention — saving you money in the long run.

Health insurance

If you provide health insurance to your employees, work with your health insurance company or broker to make sure your plan covers these services:   

  • Annual screenings for substance use disorder

  • Medicines for substance use disorder, including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone

  • Mental and behavioral health care

  • Alternative pain management treatments like non-opioid pain medicines, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and physical and occupational therapy


Some insurance companies that offer pharmacy coverage also offer programs to prevent prescription opioid misuse. Ask your health insurance company or broker if they offer these programs. 


Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can help employees with a variety of challenges, including substance use and mental health concerns. EAPs usually include a limited number of confidential counseling sessions at no cost to employees. They can also offer referrals for in-network substance use or mental health treatment providers.  

Check with your health insurance company or broker to find out if they offer an EAP.  


Disability insurance

When employees are unable to work due to an illness or injury, disability insurance replaces part of their income. This financial support can help employees who need to miss work to get treatment for substance use. Ask your health insurance company or broker to recommend a disability insurance vendor.


Create programs and policies that support employee well-being

Consider updating your company policies or creating new programs to more effectively support your employees.

Overdose response policies

By creating an overdose response policy, you can set clear expectations about what to do if someone has an overdose at work. Learn more about how to create an overdose response policy. Information on Narcan and Overdose Prevention and Intervention


Flexible schedules, time off, and leave of absence policies

By giving your employees the flexibility to take time away from work, you can empower them to take care of their health. Consider offering flexible schedules, paid time off, and medical leave policies to make it easier for employees to get treatment for substance use. You can also encourage your employees to use sick days to care for their mental health. 


Return-to-work programs

Consider implementing a return-to-work program. These programs make it easier for employees to come back to work after getting treatment for substance use or recovering from an injury or illness. In these programs, employees work limited hours or light duties (sometimes for reduced wages) for a short time while transitioning back into their previous role.


Workplace wellness programs

Creating a workplace wellness program is another way to show your employees that you value their well-being and support employees who are building healthy habits in recovery. Wellness programs look different for every company, but they can include:

  • Educational events, like brown-bag lunches on substance use or wellness-related topics

  • Fitness challenges or group activities, like yoga sessions

  • Reimbursement for gym memberships or other fitness activities

  • Financial incentives for healthy actions, like getting a preventive care checkup, participating in walking challenges, or reaching personal fitness goals


It’s important to make your wellness program accessible to employees of all fitness levels and abilities. Ask your employees for their input on what wellness activities or resources might be helpful to them.

Substance-free social activities

If you plan company social events or activities, choose a drug- and alcohol-free venue. For example, instead of after-work drinks at a pub, schedule your next event at a coffee shop. Click here for more information.


Your next steps

  • Use these sample policies and procedures to write your own recovery supportive policies Sample Policies and Procedures 

  • Use this checklist to track your progress toward creating a recovery supportive workplace

Updated 8/30/21

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