Life at PepsiCo

Dare to be a champion of mental health

Swirl pattern

After experiencing a family crisis, Anika Kataria discovered the power of unwavering support, inspiring her to become a mental health advocate.

In 2019, Anika Kataria was a student looking for a job. “I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,” she says. “It was a massive relief when I found a career opportunity at PepsiCo.”

She realized PepsiCo’s size and scope could create meaningful opportunities and that she was setting herself up for future success. And she was unbelievably excited to begin her career as a Customer Collaboration Representative by moving from Leicester, U.K., to London.

“I was looking for this experience and new opportunity,” she says. “I was ready to push myself outside of my comfort zone.”

But then her brother fell ill. “His mental health suffered,” she says. “It was really fast and extremely severe.” Within a week, her brother went from being at home to being in an intensive care unit.

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Anika immediately left university and postponed exams to be with him and her family. “My brother and I have a very close relationship,” she says. “I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I was there when he required 24/7 care.”

She graduated and began counting down the weeks to her move. She became nervous.

“I don’t know if I’m ready for this,” she recalls thinking. “I don’t know if I can leave him.”

She wondered if she was doing the right thing. Was she being selfish? After all, if her brother needed her, it’s not like she could be home with a snap of her fingers. He was two hours away.

Reaching out

Despite the uncertainty, Anika made the courageous decision to move to London, encouraged by her parents. She gave herself a couple of weeks to adapt to her new surroundings and started building connections in her new role at PepsiCo.

“I knew it was important to be open and transparent about my situation,” she says. “I told my manager and teammates. Everyone was 100% supportive.”

It was important to be open and transparent.

Colleagues knew, given her circumstances, that Anika required flexibility at work. They also pointed her toward employee assistance programs and therapy services.

“I was in a situation that many people go through,” she says. “I needed support as a person who provided care to someone who was in crisis.”

Anika found a therapist. Her manager was more than understanding when she needed to leave work early or in the middle of the day for sessions. “My manager really encouraged me to go,” she says. “At the start, I was unsure as to whether I wanted to even go, but I’m so happy I did.”

Breaking the silence

Eventually, Anika also became aware of Mental Health First Aiders, a program that empowers associates to become mental health allies. The program equips PepsiCo associates with basic skills to identify employees at risk and connect them to resources in times of crisis.

Mental Health First Aiders provide credentialed, in-office support. “It was important for me to have formal training,” Anika says. “Up until that point I just had personal experiences with my brother. But I really wanted to gain that qualification to help people in the workplace if I needed to.”

PepsiCo really cares,
and I’ve felt heard throughout my
time here.

While Mental Health First Aiders aren’t providing diagnoses, personally involved with the employees in need, or acting as problem solvers, they are empathetic leaders who increase awareness surrounding mental health. All Mental Health First Aiders wear green lanyards, making them easy to spot.

“The training allows us to pick up on people’s behaviors and give them a confidential space to express themselves,” she says. “Even if that’s just sitting down with them for 10 minutes and having a safe space to chat.”

Additionally, PepsiCo offers a range of other mental health benefits to associates, including meQuilibrium (MeQ), a stress management app that helps people better respond to tough situations. Global well-being support lines offer counseling and resources to associates whenever they need them.

Creating connections

Today, Anika is back in Leicester, working as a Supply Chain, Assistant Representative. In her day to day, she and her colleagues look at simplifying processes and driving efficiencies, from packing and sourcing of products to the way PepsiCo runs its operations.

“My current role ties in all my knowledge I’ve gained at PepsiCo while allowing me to lean into my network,” she says. “Being able to work cross-functionally allows me to grow my understanding of the supply chain process.”

Her current manager is aware of her family’s situation. “He’s always asking how my brother is, and that really means a lot to me,” she says. “PepsiCo really cares, and I’ve felt heard throughout my time here.”

PepsiCo welcomes everyone and
empowers us
to grow

She also finds inspiration and connection thanks to PepsiCo’s inclusive community.

“We’re in a really multicultural city,” she says. “Our workforce is extremely diverse.” Anika, who is Indian, loves that PepsiCo supports and celebrates holidays like Diwali. She feels included and appreciates how the company doesn’t only celebrate U.K. holidays.

“I was 19 when I started,” she says. “Regardless of age or experience, PepsiCo welcomes everyone and empowers us to grow.”

Anika wants anyone who might be struggling to know that help is available.

Dare to be

In this story series, we champion PepsiCo associates who dare to take risks, think differently and have the courage to build something better, whether at work or in their personal lives.