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GSK says ‘No’ to cabins and cubicles
HRK News Bureau | New Delhi | Sunday, 11 January 2015

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The open office culture in Gurgaon, which is second after Philadelphia, is expected to boost collaboration and productivity at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare .

Cross functional team at work Cross functional team at work

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare has redesigned its Gurgaon office to make it more open and collaborative. The office reflects GSK's philosophy of ‘do more, feel better and live longer’. In fact, the new office design also takes cues from GSK's logo of the GSK 'heart'.

To encourage openness and collaboration as well as to increase productivity, GSK has done away with office cubicles, cabins and fixed workstations. The new office is an open space, where an employee is free to sit at any of the available desks. 

GSK's office redesign is the result of a research it commissioned 10 years ago. It studied how workspaces could be modernised to match the other technological advances that had taken place in the last 100 years.

The research revealed that most of the work happened not within the fixed office cubicles, but outside them, in meeting rooms, coffee shops or halls. In fact, while 85 per cent of GSK's assets were dedicated to the individual cubicles or workstations, only 35 per cent of work-related activity was actually happening in those areas. 

Taking note of these findings, GSK started redesigning its offices worldwide to augment collaboration and productivity. For GSK, the first such smart office was its headquarters in Philadelphia, North America and the one at Gurgaon is second worldwide.  

In the new setup, everybody including the MD sits on desks that are kept in open spaces instead of cubicles. Barring a few, there are no permanent seats for employees and free seating is encouraged. There is a practical reason for this—assigning a desk to an employee pins him to that place, but in a free seating environment, he is likely to sit with his workgroup and team members. This increases collaboration among team members and aids in cohesion. 

To enable the movement of employees, the office has adopted technology platforms like LAN, WiFi, Live meeting, Office Communicators and Soft Phones for real-time communication. No matter where an employee may sit, the productivity will not be hampered.

“This new office is a symbol of our collective efforts for continuous growth, collaboration beyond boundaries and reaching new heights, says Zubair Ahmed, MD, GSK Consumer Healthcare. 

Team table

Ahmed himself works from an open office, though he has tall potted plants to offer some privacy for his visitors. However, the sales head and his team sit close to him, and therefore, they can all easily get to know what each other is doing. In fact, he says, the open office environment has improved the communication between the sales and marketing team, which is very essential. 

GSK has also reduced the number of seats in its offices to 75 per cent of its total strength, as the sales and marketing teams are usually on tour, and precious office space is wasted in holding empty desks. To further remove the concept of a permanent seat, none of the desks have any drawers in them, and each employee is allocated a locker for storing backpacks, files or any other stationery.

While an open office has shown to facilitate team work and break down hierarchies, any animated discussion or debate among employees will be in the open domain, and may be a cause for distraction for other employees. However, the advantages of an open office far outweigh its disadvantages, and GSK looks forward to turning all its offices from a crowd of cubicles and workstations to open spaces where its employees can interact with each other in a more productive manner.

© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Monday, 26 January 2015

3 comments

  • Comment Link Rahul Mehandiratta Thursday, 07 April 2016 posted by Rahul Mehandiratta

    This is really appreciating. Its a far sighted insightful approach which will still take a decade long for most of Indian companies to have acceptability to begin with, though some have started.

  • Comment Link Surinder K. Verman Tuesday, 04 August 2015 posted by Surinder K. Verman

    I have had the opportunity of visiting Flipkart at Bangalore and can visualize the advantages of an open office. Knocking down the barriers to effective communication improve employee morale and motivation and thenhence productivity and open offices undoubtedly promote the culture of openness- the WE feeling.

  • Comment Link Kavita Friday, 17 April 2015 posted by Kavita

    Good insight

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