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Google employees say their wellbeing has declined significantly over this past year, according to the results of an internal survey sent to employees this week and obtained by Insider.
Each year, Google polls employees with a survey called the Googlegeist, asking them to rate topics such as leadership, compensation, and diversity and inclusion.
The results of this year’s survey reflect a challenging year for the company, which has over 135,000 full-time employees and about the same number of temporary and contract workers. The decline in wellbeing among staff also led CEO Sundar Pichai to announce new perks and workforce changes on Thursday, according to an internal memo obtained by Insider.
The search-engine giant moved its workforce remote last March at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and currently plans to keep employees working from home until at least September of this year.
Of the notable results from the Googlegeist, questions around wellbeing scored poorly compared to last year. Only 57% of employees responded positively when asked if they could detach themselves from work during non-work hours, marking a 9-point drop from the year prior; 24% of Googlers said they disagreed with the statement and 19% were neutral.
Asked if they were able to complete their work and maintain their wellbeing, 62% responded favorably, 22% were neutral, and 16% responded unfavorably. That also marked a 9-point drop from last year’s results.
The Googlegeist survey was distributed to employees at the start of the year, and responses were collected over several weeks in January and February. Last year’s survey results reflect data taken in January and February of 2020.
It should also be noted that these are company-wide numbers; employees also get data specific to their respective product areas, which is usually much more reflective of how they feel about their work.
But the low numbers on some of these questions caused a response from leadership during an all-hands held on Thursday, according to employees who were present and requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
CEO Sundar Pichai also addressed the results in a follow-up memo on Thursday, which was obtained by Insider.
“One of the areas where we saw the biggest drop in Googlegeist this year was in wellbeing,” he wrote. “There are a number of contributing factors to this drop, including the pandemic and the incredible growth of the company.”
In response, Google announced a series of additional wellness benefits, including a company-wide holiday on March 26, a $500 “wellbeing” cash bonus, and an extra “wellness” day tacked on any time Googlers take four vacation days.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the benefits to Insider but did not provide comment on the survey.
Keeping employees happy has been a sticky problem for Google since its workforce went remote. In the company’s recent annual 10-K report, Pichai warned that the pandemic could impede its corporate culture, as CNBC reported last month.
Not only has the company confronted the pandemic, but worker issues and increased antitrust scrutiny have rocked the boat over the last 12 months.
In February, Google fired AI ethics lead Margaret Mitchell, just weeks after it pushed out its other ethics lead, Timnit Gebru. Gebru said she was fired while Google maintains she resigned, a conflict that has sparked backlash from employees against leadership.
In January, more than 200 Alphabet employees announced they were forming a workers union, which it says has since grown to more than 800 members.
The company plans to get workers back in the office later this year, but says it is considering a “hybrid” model. It also says it will help employees to get vaccinated and will encourage them to do so, but won’t require them to have the vaccine in order to return to the office, a spokesperson said.
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