How flexible workspaces are redefining the way we work


It’s a typical workday for Victor Huen Ng. He catches the subway in Philadelphia with his wife and their 9-month-old son. Victor’s stop will take him to his child’s daycare center across from his office, while his wife travels a short distance to her job. At the end of the day, the three will ride the subway home together.

“Having an office in the city where I live gives me lots of family time – time I wouldn’t have if I had to commute two or three hours to the suburbs for work,” says Victor, a senior scientist in our company’s clinical safety and risk management department.

Less travel time is one of many benefits that Victor and more than 100 employees are experiencing with our new, flexible workspaces located in the hearts of major cities.

“With these innovative spaces, we’re rewriting the definition of ‘office’ and redefining the way we work,” says John Mathew, director of our company’s real estate strategy.

Inside our experimental offices

Unlike a traditional office setting in a suburban corporate park, flexible workspaces are set up in urban centers in buildings shared by multiple companies. Dedicated, secured and branded open floor plans and large glass windows flood work areas with light and energy. There are no assigned seats or areas for specific functions. Instead, employees choose the spot that works best for their tasks that day. There are high-top tables, soft seating areas, docking stations, mini-conference rooms and more.

“There’s something about an open workspace that inspires people to think differently,” says Martin Kovach, a content strategist, who develops innovative capabilities for our markets around the world. “The environment allows us to break free from what’s been done in the past and create the space for innovative thinking.”

Although a company may have a designated area or floor for privacy reasons, everyone in the building has access to the same café, gym and other amenities, creating a community-like environment.

“It’s a perfect picture of diversity. We have different ages, genders, races, experiences and skills all around us,” says Erica Gooch, senior scientist, drug safety. “It’s a wonderful place to do amazing things that impact patients’ health and lives.”

Through a partnership with WeWork, we currently have flexible workspaces in Philadelphia and Boston. The experiment is going so well that next year, our company plans to open flexible workspaces in London and other major cities, while expanding to a new location in Philadelphia with space for more than 300 employees.

The big benefits

Ravi Mahadevan, who leads our company’s flexible workplace strategy, says people are moving to urban areas at an unprecedented rate. “They want to be close to work, rather than spend their time in traffic or depending on a train schedule. We’re responding to this change by offering employees new options for how and where they work.”

And those new options are resulting in multiple benefits. “A flexible workspace allows me to interact and collaborate with other colleagues with whom I would otherwise have little contact,” says Victor. “Because of this interaction, I get a better understanding of how we all fit together to achieve our mission of inventing for life.”

In addition, flexible workspaces place employees closer to customers and patients. “An urban environment allows us to think about the impact of our products on the people we see every day while we walk to the bookstore, go to lunch or take the subway,” says Martin. “I take those faces with me when I think about my work.”

Attracting talent is another big benefit. “Being in the heart of the city allows us to tap into the best talent graduating from universities inside the city,” says Kristina Tarnef, specialist, talent management. “These individuals may not have the means to travel to the suburbs for work. We want to remove that geographical barrier and access the talent we need to truly have an impact on patients.”

Are facilities in suburbia a thing of the past?

“Absolutely not,” says John. “A flexible workspace may not work for everyone or every function, but it’s one option that must be part of the overall real estate strategy for how we work today and in the future.”

Inside our experimental offices

Erica Gooch
senior scientist, drug safety

“The WeWork offices are close to home, so I arrive at work rested and refreshed. This helps me be creative and operate at a higher level. And being able to walk to work has been really good for my health.”

Paige Cramer Lacatena
director, scientific affairs

“I have a 1-year-old who goes to sleep around 6:30 p.m. The Philadelphia location is three blocks from my home, which means, I can be home to spend time with him and put him to bed. The flexibility also gives me the opportunity to meet friends after work, go for a jog and take advantage of the many things the city has to offer, while being more productive at work, because I’m so close to the office.”

Victor Huen Ng
senior scientist, drug safety

“I’m surrounded by go-getters all day long, and that energy is contagious. It’s motivating and inspires high productivity.”

Elise Aronson
senior specialist, talent management

“I have a 15-minute walk to work, which makes me feel energized. When I get to work, I hit the ground running and maximize my time in the office. After work, I have time to go to the gym, rather than having to sit in traffic. My work-like balance is well-rounded now.”