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9:17 am by | 8 Comments

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) recently gave Philadelphia a formal introduction to its new offices at the Navy Yard — a place that was the first home of the country’s navy. Now, it’s a campus that supports many new and established businesses such as Iroko Pharmaceuticals, Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and Emerald Stage 2 Ventures.

The new offices reflect a calculated risk by the company that creating open plan, flexible and transparent spaces will reduce a reliance on communication by e-mail, improve employee health by encouraging movement during the day and help decisions get made faster.

The theme for GSK’s new digs is collaboration. Pharmaceutical companies are hoping this approach will speed up drug development and reduce costs. The company wanted its Philadelphia administrative offices to reflect that theme too.

The building challenges conventional ideas of workspaces. Almost every office has a glass front to make it easier to see and find people for in-person communication. Few spaces have a dedicated purpose. The cafeteria and the atrium are designed to feel welcoming. The work areas are open plan and have lockers to avoid things getting too cluttered. Although teams are assigned to a neighborhood in the building, most of the 1,300 employees there can work wherever they want.

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The 208,000 square foot building’s facade and high-perfromance glass are designed to maximize daylight in winter and reduce heat in the summer with the help of automatic shades.

It’s an aesthetically pleasing place, but it will be interesting to see if the open plan system actually improves the bottom line.

8 comments
Pedro Figueiredo
Pedro Figueiredo

Brilliant office, allowing people to work in different "moods" apparently there is lot of spots for meetings, and those standing desks might be for some quick email checking. Apart from that, how many meetings do some of us have a day, that don't allow us to be seated in front of a desk. For me, looks a excellent idea to transform the space in something more dynamic.


Dave
Dave

Just another corporate trend.  In another decade or 2 you'll write an article about how the move to open areas over the past 10-20 years has proven to be a bust, but now a new trend is emerging---a move back to offices, which offer customized space that employees can tailor to their own tastes and work habits, with walls and doors that allow quiet time to contemplate and to focus on one's work without all of the noise and distraction associated with the open access concept.  With the move back to offices, a whole new generation of consultants will be able to support their families with the fees they get from their clients, who by the way are the same clients now hiring "open access consultants."  New is not always better. 

Michael7477
Michael7477

Wow, what does he do to be able to afford that new Ferrari? Oh, that guy is the towns chiropractor, when that big company changed to stand up work areas everybody started complaining about their backs hurting necks stiffness and joint pains in the knees. It even boosted the towns pain relievers sale.You cant find any on the shelves anymore.You can always tell who works there, they all walk really slow, som we even use the electric carts at Wal Mart just to get around lol.

a GSK
a GSK

Good way to become irrelevant as Resource. You are alone within the croudy office: you will never know where your colleagues are and, yes, it is easy to hide (or to be fired) without being noticed

Beth Healy
Beth Healy

I can see that this approach works for some people and types of role, but it does not work for me. I hate it, hate open plan and think the idea is awful. I find open plan highly inconvenient and it makes a hugely negative impact on my and my team's performance.

Brian
Brian

As a Community Pharmacist I have worked for 40 years at a standup workbench, overlooking the shop floor space and can say it works very efficiently. this is hardly a new concept. Wherever I have had to work sitting down the efficiency drops. Glad to hear the big boys are catching up.

RvT
RvT

In The Netherlands this kind of concept is getting used more and more. It allows for people to choose a desk, or other type of workplace, to fit their needs for that moment. We even have meeting rooms with couches, for laid back discussions and idea generation. The flex desking supports all of that. Reasonable software tools to locate people and supportive telephone infrastructure are a prerequisite.

In my company's European R&D headquarters in The Netherlands (Astellas, also pharmaceutical) no one has an assigned room, everyone, whatever the job level, is participating in the flexible work concept. Whoever needs a room can just occupy on of the many available. If a meeting, conversation or telecon is over, you are supposed to find another space again to free it up for someone else who might need it.

This indeed generates interaction. I love it.

Donna Cusano
Donna Cusano

I worked in a similar layout and enjoyed it immensely--but we didn't have the 'hot desking' part of this along with the lockers.  It's not only a pain--you wind up schlepping in files and your stuff everyday--it makes it very hard to locate people and makes it easy for some to hide. They could have made more established areas, desk assignments and secure storage at your desk and been equally 'transparent'. Less of a feeling of impermanence.