3 HR Leaders Reflect on Their Mental Health Wins from 2021

Looking for inspiration for your 2022 employee well-being strategy? Learn from these successful workplace mental health initiatives from our partners in 2021.

three women are shown in the middle of a blue background

The Calm Team

8 min read

It’s been a hard year to be an HR leader. Again.

For so many people leaders who toil tirelessly to support employee mental well-being, 2021 was another challenging, meaningful, surprising, and difficult year to be in this line of work. Because of ongoing pandemic-related stressors, our latest survey found that 87% of full-time employees feel nervous, anxious, or stressed, and 75% are unable to control their worrying, meaning that we’ve been managing our own mental health challenges while supporting others in the same boat.

Caring for your population when their needs are this great is no small job — but learning from your colleagues in the HR industry solving the same problems can be a helpful and re-energizing new perspective as you head into the new year. 

In that spirit, we’re excited to share these three stories of successful employee mental well-being initiatives from our partners at NextRoll, Nav, and Accenture. Their innovative approaches to supporting mental health in the workplace in 2021 are inspiring us to think creatively about what employee well-being could look like in 2022.


Paula Blackburn at Nav created a bingo contest that made accessing mental health resources fun

HR Leaders - Paula Blackburn


Providing your organization with mental wellness benefits is one thing — but encouraging employees to use those resources when they need them is a much bigger challenge. Savvy HR leaders who want to encourage widespread adoption should borrow a page from Paula Blackburn’s playbook: as People Experience Manager at Nav, a business financing solutions provider, she created a bingo game to encourage her team to learn about their new mental health resources in Calm this year.

Paula says that her team at Nav added Calm to their benefits portfolio because they recognized a pressing need for more benefits that supported mental well-being in the workplace. “By offering Calm to employees and their immediate family members, we felt like we were taking a step in the right direction.”

To get employees excited about using Calm, she turned onboarding into a game. She sent bingo cards to Nav employees, along with a kids’ version for families, with each square containing activities in and outside of Calm to support their mental well-being. She also created a Slack channel where the whole team could post photos of their activities as they competed against each other to win. Employees rose to meet the challenge in droves.

“The competitive spirit kicked in,” said Paula. “By far, it’s the most employee involvement we have ever seen. Employees were posting comments and sharing how using Calm had helped either them or a family member in one way or another.”

Not only was the bingo game a fun opportunity to build a sense of camaraderie through friendly competition, but inspiring employees to invest in their mental well-being has had a lasting effect that Paula says has opened more opportunities for instilling a sense of belonging and support at work.

“The outcome after offering Calm was amazing — our employees knew their mental well-being and that of their families was a top priority to Nav,” Paula said. “It was something we could finally start talking about with our peers and managers, without shame or judgement. Offering Calm opened the doors to our well-being initiative, and knowing that employees are benefiting will keep those doors wide open.”

To Paula, prioritizing mental health and well-being is personal. She shared that her daughter has anxiety — and that resources in Calm have come in handy for her not just as an employee, but as a mom, too.

“Having been introduced to Calm and everything it offers was a godsend,” she said. “I now have tools that actually help my daughter when she’s having an episode.”

Paula’s advice to fellow HR leaders looking to establish more mental well-being support at their organizations: Get the senior leaders bought in first. “Create awareness around the program, get upper management involved, and teach them how to talk with their employees about the subject of mental well-being,” she advised.


Larissa Licha at NextRoll leveraged her executive team to promote mental well-being at the top

HR Leaders - Larissa Licha


When Larissa Licha reached out for mental health help at work during a tough time, she discovered the unexpected: Her executive team didn’t just “talk the talk” regarding mental well-being on a surface level, but met her with swift, sympathetic support that revealed their true values. As an HR leader in her role as Chief of Staff at marketing technology company NextRoll, she’s since been able to leverage her team of senior leaders to normalize mental health conversations across their organization — and she’s just getting started.

“I went through a tough time a few years back where I struggled with anxiety and burnout,” said Larissa. “Initially, I didn’t know how to address this at work, but I had to make some changes.” When she approached her manager and former CEO for help, instead of encountering the stigma she anticipated, Larissa was met with support — and they even shared their own stories of dealing with mental health challenges themselves.

“I somehow feared judgment, or that they’d be concerned I wouldn’t be able to do my job,” she shared. “But they supported me in my changes and throughout my recovery period. This also made me comfortable talking openly about my mental health at work and what has helped me, and as a result, similarly opened the door for others to share their stories with me.”

After experiencing her company’s caring and supportive attitude toward mental health firsthand, Larissa turned around to give that same support to the rest of her team. Through two initiatives in 2021, she successfully leveraged her executive team and senior leaders as internal mental health advocates at the top. 

First, she asked executive leaders at NextRoll to share spotlights of well-known mental health advocates, such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and actor Jameela Jamil, with the company to destigmatize the conversation at work.

“We saw great responses across the organization, and found that executives sharing these and adding their own stories helped normalize the conversation,” she said.

Larissa also asked executives and senior leaders at the company to share testimonials about mental well-being tools they’ve used to connect their personal experiences to NextRoll’s mental wellness benefits like Calm.

“We hope that sharing these quotes will continue normalizing the adoption of tools and reducing their barriers,” she said. “It’s key to normalize not only the conversation, but the adoption of tools. Having leaders share their personal stories sends a strong message that we all have mental health [challenges], and opens the door for others to share their own.”

Larissa stressed the importance of providing employee resource groups (ERGs) with the support they need to move workplace mental health initiatives forward. “ERGs are often strapped thin, so having strong systems to support them is key — whether that’s helping with templates, sourcing executives or leaders to participate, or helping spread the word,” she said.

According to Larissa, ultimately, prioritizing mental well-being in the workplace isn’t a one-time initiative — it’s an ongoing conversation.

“Normalizing mental health has to happen top-down and bottom-up,” she said. “This has to happen continuously to keep the conversation going.”


Alison Cupito led a Mental Health Ally program at Accenture to destigmatize reaching out for support

HR Leaders - Alison Cupito


After she was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder in 2015, Alison Cupito, Global Mental Health & Wellness Lead at Accenture, sought out ways to support her colleagues going through similar challenges in the workplace. In her current role on Accenture’s Inclusion and Diversity team, Alison takes a holistic approach to caring for employees: by providing robust, globally accessible mental well-being support, Accenture is able to foster a deeper sense of inclusion and belonging for everyone in their organization.

Accenture’s Mental Health Ally program, co-led by Alison, equips 8,900+ employee volunteers in 57 countries (and counting) with basic training to help direct their coworkers to mental health resources. Allies wear special lanyards in the office to indicate to their coworkers that they’re a safe person to talk to, so employees at Accenture know they can reach out privately to a trained and sympathetic peer to get connected to support, whenever they need it and without stigma.

Though their Mental Health Ally program has been running successfully for several years, Accenture’s addition of Calm in early 2021 provided Allies with a new resource that can especially support employees on the preventative side of mental health care. It’s been a hit: Since launching in April 2021, Accenture has seen more than 30,000 Calm signups — double the amount initially predicted — with a 78% average engagement rate.



At Mental Health Ally training sessions, Calm is now promoted as a proactive resource for Allies to share with coworkers, alongside Accenture’s other mental well-being benefits. Alison said it’s been a useful addition. “Calm has really helped fill a gap where an employee’s local benefits package couldn’t,” she explained. “It definitely helps the Allies when they’re speaking to folks and they can point them to a free resource.”

Overall, Alison said that partnering with Calm has strengthened Accenture’s mental health offerings at a time when employee demand for those resources is urgently high — and a time when workplace well-being is more important than ever. 

“If you’re not physically and mentally well, then you’re not going to bring your best self to work, so it’s incredibly valuable,” Alison said of Calm, adding: “You get the best out of people when they’re taking care of themselves.”

Put mental health at the center of your 2022 employee well-being strategy with Calm

If these stories inspired you, we’d love to talk with you about your current mental health benefits offerings and initiatives — and share how Calm can support your goals in the coming year by providing an accessible, destigmatized resource your employees will actually want to use. Book a demo now to learn how incorporating Calm into your benefits offerings can help your employees and their loved ones get better sleep, find relief from burnout and stress, and thrive right where they are.

If you’ve led a workplace well-being initiative that helped your employees find more mental health support at work, we would love to hear from you — and share your story so that our community can get inspired by your ideas! Get in touch at comms@calm.com.

Help employees stress less, sleep better, and build more resilience with Calm Business

Book a demo
three iphones with different app icons on them