Life at PepsiCo

Mental Health Matters: Bringing Your Full Self to Work

A collage of Amanda, Heer, and Vinay who are all featured in the story. | Mental Health A collage of Amanda, Heer, and Vinay who are all featured in the story. | Mental Health
Swirl pattern

At PepsiCo, everyone is actively listened to and free to speak fearlessly. But what happens if we begin to struggle — and our personal and professional lives begin to blur?

Amanda Newell and her husband, Rob, have been together for more than 20 years. So the moment her wedding ring had to be cut from her hand wasn’t just upsetting — it was devastating.

In 2019, Amanda, a Quality Technician Administrator in Cupar, Scotland, underwent surgery on her left knee for pain so bad it kept her from taking walks with her husband. The following year, additional surgery on her right knee finally led to physical therapy. She had one session, and then the world shut down.

Her physical and emotional pain grew as she faced more health issues during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I couldn’t move at all,” she says. “Every joint in my body was swollen.” Her husband and her daughter, Amy, helped with everything, she says, from cutting up her food to holding cups to her lips for sips of water.

A collage of Amanda includes her and her dog, and her smiling with family. | Mental Health

Amanda Newell (pictured with her rescue dog, daughter and husband) fell into a deep depression after undergoing two surgeries. Today, she is a mental health advocate in Cupar, Scotland.


Amanda’s silent struggle is common. And the devastation of the pandemic has made things worse: Last June, in the United States, 40% of adults reported struggling with mental health challenges, roughly 10% more than in 2019. More than 50% of workers experienced burnout last year, also almost 10% more than the year before. Globally, the prevalence of anxiety and depression has impacted almost one in four people in the Covid era.

“We know associates are struggling during the pandemic,” says Jeni Chih, Senior Director, Global Health & Well-Being at PepsiCo. “Everyone experiences it differently. For some, stress might lead to back pain, for others, depression.”

More than ever, we know how important it is to check in with yourself.

Think of frontline associates — pandemic heroes — out on the road by themselves. Or people who simply found themselves working at home, isolated 24/7, trying to adapt.

Individual experiences are diverse and specific. “Conversations about mental health are vastly different both within the United States as well as globally. So many things impact the way people address mental health. The best we can do is have different ways for associates to access care and try to get it out to as many people as possible,” Jeni says.

“More than ever, we know how important it is to check in with yourself and your individual needs,” says Heer Kundani, a Senior Analyst for Total Rewards, PepsiCo’s holistic program designed to help associates live better. “Sometimes, you need to take a step back and assess how you feel in order to bounce back.”

Amanda first “checked in” with herself curled up in the corner of her bedroom. “I was sobbing,” she says. “My husband told me I needed to talk.” Turns out, talking changed everything.

Amanda smiles as she sits at the lake with her dog, who is nuzzling her face with his nose. | Mental Health

Amanda Newell credits her rescue dog, a cocker spaniel named Blu, for helping her through difficult times.


Amanda started having honest dialogues with co-workers. Instead of telling everyone she was “fine,” she told the truth. “Everyone was so supportive,” she says. “My boss was amazing through this period.”

Whenever she joined video calls, her manager asked her to turn on the camera. “She wanted to see what was going on,” Amanda says. “If she could sense that I was struggling, she would tell me to log off and rest. She helped me process my feelings.”

Of course, not everyone feels comfortable discussing mental health with their manager. “It’s not uncommon to feel nervous,” Heer says. “But we encourage everyone to have the conversation — it doesn’t have to be with your manager or HR.”

We encourage everyone to have the conversation.

PepsiCo offers a wide range of confidential mental and emotional wellness resources to support associates during difficult times. For example, in the U.S., PepsiCo recently added a virtual mental health benefit, which helps associates to get quick access to care. In the sector Heer oversees, PepsiCo AMESA, they launched a HERE4U series addressing topics such as building resilience; managing your energy, sleep, and physical activity; and dealing with unknown pressures during tough times.

“We can also set up one-on-one video sessions for families, encouraging and normalizing conversations surrounding mental health,” Heer says. “This gives everyone, including associates’ children, a safe space to ask questions about the pandemic or anything else on their minds.”

Meanwhile, anyone can access meQuilibrium, a global stress management app designed to help associates discover simple techniques to build resilience and shift their response to stressful thoughts or situations. PepsiCo also offers a global well-being support line, which gives associates access to counselors 24/7 via phone, video chat or in person to help with family relationship issues, health challenges, and work and career issues.

A collage of Vinay includes him standing and smiling in a vibrant green backyard with his palms pressed together in front of his chest. Also included in the collage are images of him in class teaching yoga to a group of coworkers. | Mental Health

Vinay Bohara, a project manager based in Plano, Texas, started yoga and meditation classes in 2007 to build community and create connection.


PepsiCo already offers a variety of employee resource groups, like EnAble, EQUAL and Adelante, to help everyone feel accepted and respected. If there isn’t a relevant activity or group that associates are interested in, they’re always invited to create one.

For example, Vinay Bohara, a Project Manager based in Plano, Texas, started impromptu yoga and virtual meditation classes. “A lot of us aren’t doing any type of regular physical activity except those working at a plant,” he explains, adding that for him, physical movement is an effective stress reliever.

Activities that build community are everywhere at PepsiCo.

Taking a moment to breathe also creates connection. “Everybody’s so busy,” he says. “Making time for self-care is so important.” Now, he leads meditation classes every other Thursday. “Meditation helps me calm down,” he says. “Learning how to slow down my breath really transformed my life, and I love teaching people how it can change them.”

Activities that build community are everywhere at PepsiCo. In India, 14 virtual hobby clubs — from dancing to cooking — allow associates to explore passions remotely. Group activities like these can fuel positive mental health. “They teach us that how you invest your time is important,” Heer says. “Especially during the pandemic — they allow us to re-imagine how we want to spend our free time.”

A collage of Heer includes a smiling portrait of her outside in front of palm trees. Also in the collage are images of her jumping on a trampoline and smiling with a coworker at a PepsiCo group event. | Mental Health

Heer Kundani, a Senior Analyst for Total Rewards, champions mental health through holistic benefits designed to help associates live better.

Credentialed, in-office support also exists for those who need it. Around the world, associates can find Mental Health First Aiders — green lanyards make them easy to spot — who are trained to notice the initial signs of mental health difficulties. If associates need to talk, the First Aiders provide a safe space to listen and can connect them to appropriate services to help.

Today, Amanda counts herself among those First Aiders. “It’s amazing to provide support,” she says. “Being able to share your experience and listen creates a sense of community, especially when you can provide further guidance on where to go.”

As Amanda has healed, she’s personally taken advantage of these services, including vouchers for a weight-loss program. Since last year, she’s lost 2.5 stone (35 pounds.). Prioritizing herself, she says, has taken her mental health to another level. “Life is a whirlwind,” she says. “You need to take time for you, even if it’s just for five to 10 minutes.”

Today, Amanda walks on the beach alongside her husband and daughter — and their new rescue puppy, a cocker spaniel named Blu — every day.

If you are suffering from depression and live in the United States, text HOME to 741741 anytime about any type of crisis. Live, trained counselors receive the text and respond. You can also call the National Helpline for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, which is free, confidential, and available 24/7, every day, in English and Spanish, at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).