New Workplace, One Year Out: Post-Occupancy Lessons Learned at GSK

Last Tuesday, we were joined by Steven Bernstein, Program Director of Strategic Portfolio Planning & Workplace at Faithful+GouldJohn Campbell, Principal at Francis Cauffman, and Ray Milora, Head of Design and Change Management and Worldwide Real Estate & Facilities at GSK for an insightful look into what they’ve learned since completing GSK’s Navy Yard project (check out our Work Design NOW case study and video about the space here). In case you missed it, we’ve compiled a summary of key takeaways from the talk.
The exterior of GSK's building at the Navy Yard. Photo courtesy of GSK.
The exterior of GSK’s building at the Navy Yard. Photo courtesy of GSK.

Vital statistics

  • GSK transitioned from a traditional hierarchical workplace in Center City, Philadelphia (800,000 square feet; thirty-two floors over two buildings) to a 208,000 square foot free address, activity-based workplace over four floors in one building at Philadelphia growing Navy Yard campus. They went from 275 square feet per person to 130.
  • Steven Bernstein said that the old building was “cube farm central — you could actually not see your colleagues for weeks on end because there was just so much space. The buildings were tired, and twenty years old. And really GSK wanted to ratchet out and remodel the way it conducted business, and they used this project as an enabler.”

On the importance of the prototyping process:

“The whole idea of prototyping is about user engagement, employee acceptance, and it was a test lab for furniture and IT training,” said John Campbell. “In the end we went with 100 percent height-adjustable workstations. We learned our way through all the teething problems associated with that how to get the power, what’s the right data, et cetera. As a result, over the last year, we’ve had very few issues associated with the workstations.”

"Imagine thirty floors of this," said Bernstein. "Now it's much better, much brighter, and everyone has access to natural light." Photo courtesy of GSK.
“Imagine thirty floors of this,” said Bernstein. “Now it’s much better, much brighter, and everyone has access to natural light.” Photo courtesy of GSK.

On the post-occupancy evaluation process:

“Before our move to Navy Yard, we did a fair amount of work with employees around pre-occupancy information, so we were looking at the kinds of things they were looking for, their concerns, and other things we could then measure before we started the project,” said Ray Milora.

“The way we did our post-occupancy evaluations was a combination of face-to-face meetings and then a survey,” said Milora. “At the time, there were over 1350 people assigned to building and we had well over 900 people respond to the survey.”

Here are some of the results:

  • 68 percent of employees reported that their social interaction increased after the move.

    “One the key things we were trying to gain with the move was more collaboration,” said Milora. “To see that number come in in one year after the move was amazing.”

  • 71 percent of employees reported that finding a closed meeting room can be difficult.

    “We knew it was going to be harder to find meeting rooms,” said Milora. “What’s not shown is that over the course of the last several years, GSK has been reducing our overall travel. So that’s baked into this number. It’s harder to find a room because more people are looking. But the good news is that we’re already starting to address it with the way we book and utilize meeting rooms. So we’re going directly after that one to turn that number around.”

    A view into the new atrium from the "catwalk." Photo by Eric Laignel for Francis Cauffman.
    A view into the new atrium from the “catwalk.” Photo by Eric Laignel for Francis Cauffman.
  • 65 percent of employees report that they are satisfied with the physical workplace environment.

    “The building itself is a big part of the story and it’s really playing out unlike any space we’ve ever had before,” said Milora. “Our occupancy has grown considerably — at the old office, we averaged around 40-50 percent occupied, and now we’re well over 80 percent.”

Other notable results include measurements around complaints about pain and discomfort issues related to workstation use (they’ve cut issues in half in the new building), transportation, and sustainability.

With regard to transportation, the team got surprising results: “One of the first things we heard from day one up until the move was around transportation,” said Milora. “Before the move, we were about three blocks from the regional rail station. The assumption was, in moving to Navy Yard, that even though there’s a free shuttle service that picks up from the station and brings employees to the new building, more people would drive to work and those using our transit subsidy would drop off.”

But instead, the opposite had happened: more people take advantage of GSK’s transit subsidy and there’s actually been a slight decrease in registered parkers.

On sustainability, notable results include that they’ve reduced network devices and eliminated all personal printers; diverted 99 percent of waste from the landfill; and reduced paper usage considerably and cut water usage nearly in half.

What they’d do differently…

A year and half in, they’re already at capacity: they’re built for assumed occupancy with no room for growth. “When you go into an environment like this, success can drive more people wanting to be here, and it has,” said Milora.

They also said that they’d build additional meeting and heads down spaces, though this isn’t about not having enough meeting rooms — it’s about offering more choice.

What they’d do the same…

“The core team that we had was small, empowered, it was focused, and it was all about accountability and responsibility. It was a great working team,” said Milora.

And finally, lead with change management and trust your employees’ capacity to embrace change. “This whole project was led by change management throughout,” said Milora. “We put a lot of trust and faith in our employees and really embraced their ability to change.”

Thank you to everyone who attended the webinar! If you have additional questions for the panelists, please email them to [email protected], and please join us for our next webinar, featuring Suzanne Tick, on August 5 at 2:00 PM EDT. Click here for tickets and details.
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