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University of Colorado Denver


Health Risk Management [Worksite Wellness]

Promoting a Culture of Health

Do you have questions about starting a wellness program in your company?  Are you wondering where to start and what it takes?

Check out these FAQs for answers on how to create a culture of health in your workplace.

1. What free resources are available to CO employers to help us get a worksite wellness program going?

Checkout the list of free resources listed here.  Remember there is a LOT out there on corporate wellness, so the best thing to do is go to some of these - they provide guidelines, recommendations of programs and how to implement them​.

If your company has Pinnacol Assurance as your worker's comp carrier, Pinnacol is offering a Health Risk Management program contact your agent or click here

2. What are other companies doing to start a worksite wellness program?

Most start small. Larger companies may hire wellness coordinator and allocate resources "up front" to get a framework in place.

Places to start:

  1. Get senior level management support
  2. Collect the data that makes the "case" - review free resources to gather information, conduct a needs assessment within your company to design a program that addresses what is most important
  3. Form a wellness team of employees who are interested in this and who will become champions
  4. Allocate some resources to help get the program started
  5. Define achievable and measurable short-term and long-term goals
  6. Solicit ideas from other workers
  7. Discuss incentives that motivate people to participate
  8. Collect information on participation levels and LISTEN to employee feedback

3. What are some easy, inexpensive programs to implement into our culture?

There are several easy to focus on first and not one size fits all.  Nice to offer a variety of choices from the following:

  1. Introduce healthy foods / snacks at work.  Supplement it with information about nutrition.  --  e.g. company functions, conferences, banquets, provide healthy foods.
  2. Start a FREE exercise program.  It's as simple as people taking walks at lunch, doing 'standing meetings', pedometer competitions (Tip: creating teams is a great thing!)
  3. Promote tobacco cessation programs.  These are often free through health insurance plan and are important resources to make people aware of these (ex. Colorado QuitLine)
  4. Check with your health insurance plan. Insurance companies often offer free or discounted memberships to Weight Watchers, discounts on gym memberships, etc.
  5. Encourage employees to attend health fairs.  Advertise these in the company.  Click here​ to find out about 9Health Fair in Colorado.

4. How do I get senior leadership support?

First, ask yourself this question:  

  1. Does the senior leadership respond to hard ROI information or are they responsive to discussion of "softer' benefits, such as job satisfaction?

Collect the data that business can provide to leadership about ROI and makes the "case" for program that aligns with the business​' mission, goals and objectives. See LiveWell Colorado.

There is information available on how wellness programs:

  • Increase productivity 
  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Reduce health insurance premium costs
  • Reduce worker's compensation claims and costs 

5. What does ​a wellness program include? What does that mean?

Typically it starts with having employers and employees understand that health is important for the company and for employees and that because we spend so much time at work, healthy habits should be part of the workplace culture.

Companies with successful worksite wellness programs are exemplary in:

  • Enthusiasm and motivation of employees
  • Cost savings (for insurance and workers' compensation)
  • Corporate culture that embraces employee health, has an important way of showing that it values its employees


A wellness program includes a focus on PREVENTION, as well as MANAGEMENT of problems that may have already arisen.

1) An HRA that allows people to get a snapshot of their own health status

2) Access to educational materials

3) Biometric screening

4) Access to health coach and to special programs such as nutrition and tobacco cessation

*More sophisticated programs may also include disease management programs to address problems such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension where the person works with a nurse on line or by phone to help get their health problems under better control.

6. Does having employees fill out a health questionnaire violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Questionnaires are voluntary. People can choose to skip certain questions if they are uncomfortable.  Employers never see the answers. And it is important for employees to know that there is confidentiality and that the employer very specifically will NEVER see a participant's health information.

7. What sort of information is protected by the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act?

Everything.  Employer does not get to see the information unless the employee decides to share it with co-worker or managers (which is their choice). Furthermore, if any individual information does get in the hands of the employer, the employer is obligated under GINA to not use that information in any discriminatory hiring or retention decision.

8. Do wellness programs save money for employers?

These programs are preventive -- so rewards to the individual and the company do not always come immediately and are not always obvious for small businesses.

Blood pressure checks -- can give immediate benefits!

Cholesterol checks -- can give fairly quick benefits!

The "Business Case" - ROI is based on improvements in:

  • BMI, Tobacco Cessation, Cholesterol and Hypertension 
  • Also, Fatigue and Stress.  
  • *Year over year there will be a reduction in the healthcare expenditures by your employees as they get healthier.
  • **Year over year there will be a reduction in the number and cost of workers' compensation claims and costs as they get healthier.  

9. What are the opportunities, and the rules around offering incentives?  What kinds of incentives really work?

Incentives are company specific. HR department must be involved in this to consider company policies.

For small businesses, you have  a lot of options.  If the program is voluntary, then the incentives are received only by those who participate.  And remember, small incentives work!  [Think: cash, recognition, awards ceremonies. walk-athons]

10. How would a wellness program work with my health insurance company?

Check with insurers.  They typically offer certain incentives to the corporation, as well as sometimes discounts to employees and their families who participate and make use of wellness program components such as HRAs, disease management counseling, tobacco cessation etc.  Discuss with your insurance company how participation can affect your premiums as a company.​

Do you already have a great worksite wellness program at your company? Apply to be a Certified Healthy Business. Or does your company need some solutions to help get your worksite wellness program up and running? Visit this online resource center​


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