Becoming a Recovery Friendly Workplace

The Society of Actuaries estimates the opioid epidemic cost American business $96B from 2015 to 2018. One in three people in America - and in your workplace - are impacted by Subtance Use Disorder (SUD). Some may have the disease themselves, and many have a loved one with the disease.

Shatterproof and the National Safety Council developed an SUD cost calculator to get an estimate of the cost to your company. For example, if you're a manufacturing company in Illinois with 5,000 employees, your calculated cost is $1.5M per year. If you’re a construction company in California with 2,000 employees, your cost is estimated to be $843,000.

These costs are the result of lost productivity associated with absenteeism; presenteeism; disability; workers’ compensation benefits to employees with SUD; job turnover and retraining; and health care.

The numbers are associated with employees who have SUD. There is an additional cost of productivity lost from employees who have loved ones who have SUD as the employee takes time from work to help their loved one deal with the disease or the repercussions, like court cases.

There is an opportunity to reduce this cost and provide a benefit to your employees by becoming a Recovery Friendly Workplace (RFW).

What Is a Recovery Friendly Workplace?

A Recovery Friendly Workplace is an organization which helps its employees recover or maintain recovery from Substance Use Disorder and helps employees who have loved ones with SUD. An RFW is not inconsistent with a Drug Free Workplace. In fact, the two are aligned. Helping someone recover or maintain recovery helps to keep the workplace drug free.

An RFW generally has the following characteristics:

  • Supervisors receive training annually on how to handle SUD-related issues
  • Training is made available to all employees on SUD, on the employer’s existing drug policies, and on the recovery help that is available
  • Employees can get referrals to counselling and to treatment for themselves or for their loved ones
  • Non-biased communication about recovery is provided to employees
  • The employer supports medicine assisted treatment in claims
  • The drug policy includes descriptions of help available
  • The Employee Assistance Program is equipped to handle SUD-related calls
  • An RFW task force exists or RFW is integrated into existing health and safety committees

Why Become a Recovery Friendly Workplace

Helping your employees or their loved ones recover or maintain recovery reduces the cost of SUD to your company. A even more valuable reason may be the benefit it provides to your employees. Many employees will be healthier and happier. In fact, you may save lives.


There is not much cost in becoming an RFW. There are good training courses available at reasonable costs, such as Shatterproof’s excellent Just Five set of six training courses that are each less than five minutes.

A company can establish an RFW task force to direct the efforts. A small number of hours from a consultant can also help put the program into place.

Consulting Services to Help

A consultant with knowledge and experience can help an employer in the following areas:

  • Provide orientation to the program
  • Assess the current cost of SUD to the company. (The above cost calculator is a good start, but an assessment more specific to the particular organization is useful.)
  • Assess the degree to which RFW criteria are currently met
  • Deliver recommendations and an action plan
  • Help execute the action plan, including topics like the following:   
    • Preparing and delivering the communications program
    • Making the training available
    • Implement a treatment referral program
    • Participate in the RFW task force
  • Re-asses the cost annually

New Hampshire is Leading

New Hampshire is the first state to launch a Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative, led by Governor Chris Sununu. It promotes wellness by empowering employers to provide support for people with SUD. The State provides business owners with resources to create a supportive environment that encourages success in recovery. Employers who sign on and implement the requirements receive a designation from Governor Sununu as a Recovery Friendly Workplace.

There are significant benefits to becoming a Recovery Friendly Workplace. If you'd like to discuss the concept further for your organization, click the Contact button above.

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