Support continues for recovery-friendly workplaces in Covid-19 era
New Hampshire initiative continues to provide resources, virtual meetings and coaches amid pandemic
For people in recovery, sound employment may serve as one of several key pillars contributing to their ability to sustain recovery and lead a productive, healthy and fulfilled life. Among other things, employment provides community, a sense of purpose, accountability and structure, which can be critical aspects of a person’s recovery.
What happens when those who have been impacted by addiction do not have work? Or their work has shifted from being done in-person to being done remotely?
These are questions that people in recovery and the additional organizations that serve them have been asking in the wake of a dramatically changed work landscape brought about by Covid-19. The short answer is that these changes often pose a challenge to people in recovery, but the more in-depth answer is that a variety of entities are rallying to mobilize and evolve recovery supports so that they remain as accessible as possible during this time.
One of these entities is Recovery Friendly Workplace (RFW), an initiative that helps businesses support employees who are in recovery or have been impacted by addiction more generally.
In essence, the initiative equips employers with the knowledge and tools they need to better understand drug and alcohol addiction and challenge the stigma around it. The initiative also connects over 250 workplaces and 70,000 employees to a wide array of resources and community partners, including Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs), so that they know how to get their employees connected to support should the need arise.
During Covid-19, however, employers’ efforts to keep employees in recovery connected and supported became more complicated. For many workplaces, their once in-person work communities changed dramatically, as did the in-person resources they may have referred employees to, such as recovery meetings and counseling sessions.
The RFW initiative and its partners have pivoted over the past few weeks to determine how to best support workplaces to get crucial virtual supports and resources to their employees in this changing landscape.
The RFW initiative, which was used to in-person visits to workplaces as a cornerstone of their outreach, switched gears to a focus on vetting and getting the word out about a wide array of resources. Combing through a variety of national, statewide and local resources, the initiative pulled together what it felt would be most relevant to its workplaces and focused on swiftly disseminating those across social media channels and also through strategic email communications.
New Hampshire’s RCOs, which provide peer-based, non-clinical supports, have contributed especially valuable resources during this time as they deftly transitioned from largely in-person to remote supports, including virtual recovery meetings and recovery coaching, in addition to offering telephone check-ins and access to additional activities to support a person’s recovery, such as yoga and meditation.
While remote recovery options may not be how some ideally experience community, others may find that they reduce barriers to getting connected to help, such as by eliminating the need to find childcare or transportation.
Most recently, the RFW initiative has progressed from sharing pre-existing resources to collaborating with its partners to create new resources for Granite Staters. The initiative, in partnership with SOS Recovery Community Organization, and with contributions from many RCOs, created a spreadsheet that details the virtual recovery meetings many of New Hampshire’s RCOs are offering. This resource makes it easy for people to see what kinds of recovery meetings are being offered and when, as opposed to needing to find and navigate multiple RCO websites.
During May and June, the RFW initiative is conducting a virtual training series designed to help employers best support employees in a work landscape altered by COVID-19. This series pulls in partners to present on several topics, including Navigating Changed Dynamics at Home, Supporting Mental Health and Managing Anxiety (featuring Headrest, NAMI-NH and Seacoast Mental Health), Recognizing Compassion Fatigue (by SOS Recovery), and Accessing Resources, with a focus on 211 NH and The Doorway NH.
The series will also debut two new sessions created by the initiative to best meet employers’ needs during this time.
The first session will utilize a discussion-based format to provide workplaces with a chance to connect around shared challenges, as well as an opportunity to problem-solve together and share insights on overcoming these challenges. The next session is on self-care during times of isolation and is meant to give people additional tools to enhance their practice of self-care.
When Covid-19 interrupted our lives, people in recovery had to find new ways to connect and adapt in order to maintain their recovery. Though the task likely feels daunting at times, there are an array of resources and partners, including the Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative, working hard to evolve to ensure those in recovery have as much support as possible during these especially trying times.
Despite the changes the initiative is making, its core message, which it hopes others can take to heart as well, remains the same: Reach out for help. You are not alone.
Samantha Lewandowski is a recovery-friendly advisor of the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative.