Standing desks aren’t the only eye-catchers at GSK’s new Philly digs

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.


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.