Business Growth Strategies: Focusing on Addiction Recovery in the Workplace

As the Great Resignation continues, it’s abundantly clear that recruiting and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges employers face. What unique business growth strategies can organizations use? At Chameleon Group, we’ve found that focusing on addiction recovery has helped us find and support good people who are ready to work toward a fresh start.

According to Recovery Friendly Workplace, untreated addiction costs New Hampshire’s economy $2.36 billion—and businesses shoulder 66% of that cost, or $1.5 billion, in the form of decreased productivity and absenteeism.

Chameleon Group became a Recovery Friendly Workplace after observing several employees who had attendance issues. As our founder Dana Lariviere puts it, “I’m not sure that we ever decided to become a Recovery Friendly workplace. I think it was decided for us.”

When one employee was let go due to absenteeism, she contacted us a few years later, searching for another opportunity. We rehired her on a trial basis, and she excelled! We quickly recognized that this was a promising recruiting and retention source many employers hadn’t considered.

Below are some innovative employee retention strategies related to addiction recovery that have worked for us.

The Challenge: Employee Retention

The Great Resignation does not discriminate by industry or company size—although resignations were highest in the tech and healthcare industries as of September 2021. 

The high turnover costs employers significantly in recruiting, hiring, and training expenses. But recent research shows the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Many workers haven’t been happy in their new positions and continue job hopping. 

Employees want more than a decent salary. They’re on the hunt for: 

  • Work-life balance and flexibility
  • Growth opportunities
  • Satisfying work
  • An employer that values their personal lives

A diagram of work-life balance strategies

Employers who want to build and retain a strong team must show compassion and empathy for people’s challenges, whether family life, mental health, or substance use disorder (SUD).

The Benefits: Why Focus on Addiction Recovery in the Workplace?

Implementing an addiction recovery program in your workplace is not only the right thing to do—it also helps nurture long-term employee loyalty. While many people associate the word “recovery” with drug or alcohol addiction, your employees could be living with other addictions or personal struggles, such as: 

  • Food, gambling, or video gaming addictions
  • Mental health disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD)
  • Grief due to the loss of a loved one or a relationship
  • Domestic violence
  • Increased financial or family care stressors
  • Chronic pain or illness

So, how can your business focus on addiction recovery?

Mitigate Employee Stress

Employers have a responsibility to create a safe and healthy work environment. A significant piece of this is ensuring employees do not experience excessive work stress. Employees should have clear expectations to assess their performance. All should feel respected and heard.

Implement Supportive Strategies & Programs

Recovery Friendly Workplaces support people where they are at in their journey. This often means helping them find addiction recovery tools and resources. Consider creative ways you can help your team manage their stress and progress, such as: 

  • Health and wellness perks (e.g., gym memberships, yoga sessions, massages, health coaching).
  • Financial programs and assistance
  • Mental health care support and resources
  • Addiction recovery center connections
  • Childcare service or financial support
  • Time off to receive support or treatment

And when it comes to communication, be sure to:

  • Address issues or changes in an employee’s behavior from a place of empathy 
  • Encourage employees to speak up if they are struggling with their recovery
  • Communicate regularly with employees and their counselors
  • Keep employees accountable, but remain flexible
  • Promote a message of wellness and work-life balance

“The most rewarding thing about being a Recovery Friendly Workplace is seeing these folks go from being perceived as a net drain on society to a net contributor,” says Dana. 

The Changes: Chameleon’s Adaptations and Wins

As we shifted our business to focus on addiction recovery, we saw countless opportunities to help employees and our community.

Updated Hiring/Staffing Policies

We built the foundation by updating our hiring and staffing policies. They now reflect our mission of creating an inclusive, empathetic workplace.

A diagram of innovative employee retention strategies

Reentering the job force is difficult for recovering addicts, who often feel they have to bend the truth or fill in gaps on their resumés. But when they apply and work for a Recovery Friendly Workplace, they can be honest without fear of judgment. This environment means everything to those in recovery and provides them with a sense of relief.

Chameleon Group also emphasizes constant communication for our employees in addiction recovery. We stuck to this even throughout COVID when we were apart to ensure no one felt isolated.

Designations & Partnerships

Chameleon Group has obtained special designations and partnerships, starting with becoming a Recovery Friendly Workplace. This means we: 

  • Support our employees and create a healthier environment for them
  • Implement evidence-based health and safety policies and programs
  • Completed program requirements, such as employee resources and annual training and education on substance misuse, behavioral health, and addiction
  • Received our RFW designation from Governor Sununu

We also became a “Place”—a Dover Mental Health Alliance designation available to any business, organization, or institution that focuses on the mental health of their employees, colleagues, and customers. Requirements to become a “Place” include:

  • Fostering a safe, judgment-free space where mental health conversations are normalized 
  • Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, so we know how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges
  • Ensuring an MHFA-trained employee is onsite at all times during operating hours
  • An annual review to ensure the Chameleon Group continues meeting established criteria

Additionally, we collaborate with Working Fields, a recovery-friendly staffing agency based in Vermont. They partner with employers wishing to give addiction recovery people a second chance. All candidates are:

  • Vetted thoroughly
  • Carefully matched to jobs in a variety of industries
  • Receive ongoing peer coaching to support all aspects of their recovery

Free Chameleon Community Resources

Chameleon Group is dedicated to providing a place of accountability for employees to work other than alone in their homes, where they have a higher risk of relapse.

What better way to bring people together than with food?! Our Food Days demonstrate inclusion, one of our core values. These informal events are perfect for those dealing with addiction recovery, social anxiety, and introverts who struggle to communicate. Food Days include: 

  • Kicking off sports seasons (e.g., baseball opening day BBQ)
  • Chili competitions
  • Bagel Fridays
  • Monthly breakfast cooked by Vinny and Dana
  • A Thanksgiving meal
  • Potluck meals

Additional resources team members can benefit from without judgment include: 

  • Our own food pantry: To work toward a sense of normalcy for employees, team members bring in food like peanut butter, tuna, cup-o-soup, and mac ‘n cheese—things kids would like to ensure the whole family can eat.
  • Clothing and gift cards: Coworkers have brought clothing and gift cards for employees in need.
  • Support and services: Chameleon Group refers employees to sober living facilities, mental health support, and daycare vouchers as needed.

Chameleon Group leadership and team members will even attend an employee’s drug court graduation and celebrate this milestone. We want our colleagues to know that we are their support network and are proud of their hard work and progress!

The chameleon team at a recovery friendly workplace seminar

When asked to sum up Dana’s generosity, Deb Clark, Chameleon Group’s VP of Sales and Operations says, “He surprises me every day. He has a great ability to problem solve outside what a normal business owner would do. He doesn’t think twice about it.”

Making Thought Leadership Moves

Chameleon Group is passionate about educating other employers about addiction recovery, becoming a Recovery Friendly Workplace, and inclusive business development tools. From roundtable discussions on addiction recovery resources to public rallies, you’ll often find one of our team members spreading the word!

Interested in joining the conversation and learning more about becoming a Recovery Friendly Workplace? Join us at a future event: 

Final Thoughts on Addiction Recovery and Employee Retention

While focusing on addiction recovery requires time and financial investment from employers, the return is priceless. As a Recovery Friendly Workplace, Chameleon Group:

  • Creates a safe, healthy, and inclusive work environment
  • Leverages a creative avenue to attract talent 
  • Builds employee loyalty and retention
  • Helps employees through recovery and other challenging situations — an enriching experience

If your business or organization wants to get involved, we will be happy to discuss resources, ideas, and strategies with you. Please reach out to Chameleon Group today!


Phone: 800.773.9182