About a year ago, Glaxo set up a pilot program in which employees could work at adjustable-height desks, among a slew of other workplace design changes in preparation for the company’s move from its Center City offices to the Navy Yard this month.
The design of the 208,000-square-foot Navy Yard office is radically different. In the new office space, no one has a designated seat; desk drawers have been replaced with lockers; trash cans and printers are in centralized areas to encourage movement; phones are embedded in computers; and workers could be typing away while sitting on a yoga ball or on a chair. And there are treadmill desks, known as ‘walking stations.’ The changes are not designed solely to address employee health. They are part of a broader plan to boost efficiency and collaboration.
Of the 1,300 employees in Glaxo’s Philadelphia offices, about 400 have completed a two-week pilot program in which they worked in an office setup similar to the one at the Navy Yard.Dozens more like McTigue have been working for more than a year on the 16th floor of one of the company’s Franklin Plaza buildings outfitted with adjustable desks, yoga balls, and other equipment prominently featured at the new office.
Ron Joines, vice president and medical director in the company’s environmental health and safety group, said he gets to work early to snag one of the standing desks because they fill up faster than any others. Not all Glaxo employees appeared convinced; most were sitting. And, those who were not familiar with the new setup claimed, “it was like being in a zoo.”
This is certainly not the first example of life sciences companies breaking through the traditional paradigms of workplace environments. Yet, this is the first we’ve ever heard of ‘treadmill desks’ at a Big Pharma. Regardless, kudos to GSK for being inventive and groundbreaking in their approach to employee health and workplace collaboration.