How GSK has created an office environment that feels like a co-working space

Global biopharma major GSK is a prominent maker of innovative vaccines and specialty medicines to prevent and treat disease. It was the first global healthcare company to establish a presence in Singapore in 1959, and has since become one of the biggest contributors to the local biomedical sciences industry with investments of more than S$2.5bn.

Singapore is the headquarters for its Global General Medicines (GM) business, and is also the regional headquarters for its Greater China and Intercontinental (GCI) and Emerging Markets (EM) regions. It houses three manufacturing sites, comprising two global manufacturing supply sites and a vaccines manufacturing facility. Together, it employs over 1,500 people in Singapore.

At the 10th annual edition of HR Excellence Awards, Singapore in 2022, GSK won the gold award for ‘Excellence in Workforce Flexibility’, as well as GSK’s Vanisri Selvaraja, HRBP & Asia and Early Talent Manager won gold as ‘Young HR Talent of the Year’.

In view of this achievement, we catch up with Anne Lau, Real Estate & Facilities Manager, Workplace, Real Estate & Facilities (WREF), GSK (pictured above, third from right, holding the award) on how the team developed new ways of working in the office, received 93 ergonomics assessments of workstations, and managed occupancy to support two days of remote working a week.

Q Congratulations on the achievement! Could you take us through the highs-and-lows of your winning strategy?

The objective is aligned to our business delivery, people needs, and value of money to provide inspiring, collaborative, flexible, connected, inclusive, smart, and sustainable outcomes.

The main principles of our PWC (performance with choice approach) are to:

  • Manage occupancy to support two days a week remote working,
  • Combine the best of home working with an office environment that feels like a co-working space,
  • Create an office with 50% collaborative and 50% individual desk settings,
  • Manage space and locker use, reservations, and wayfinding with GSK Nimway booking app,
  • Drive collective team performance,
  • Support personal health and wellbeing,
  • Support environmental sustainability.

The outcomes of GSK’s SW4.0 (‘Smart Working 4.0’ programme) are: 

  • Office to be a co-working space than traditional office,
  • Driven by great employee experience supported by intuitive mobile technologies,
  • Less-desk office that balances our ability to work from home regularly,
  • Enabling people to make good decisions about where to work.

Q How did the HR team identify and align the business & employee needs, and craft out this perfect solution?

GSK Asia House collected the space capacity utilisation pre-COVID-19.

GSK also conducted a survey on work-from-home options, which showed that more than 50% of the staff indicate they prefer to work from home one to two days per week post COVID-19.

GSK then introduced the ‘Performance with Choice’ approach (PWC) for office-based workers to support individual and collective performance and wellbeing. Going forward with PWC, we have a hybrid model in place. We do reach out to the business to understand their needs and support required. GSK also puts massive data outcomes into action to produce  GSK global ‘Smart Working 4.0’ programme (SW4.0).

SW4.0 recognises the way our people want and need to work is changing with the recent success of homeworking.  SW4.0 refers to workplace design and technology that will focus on helping people to collaborate, using more flexible, lifestyle spaces to encourage innovation, trust, and wellbeing.

Q Could you share the results that your strategy has delivered – be it on the business, HR, or people side?

Commercial benefits that the strategic plan has delivered include:

  • GSK provides virtual online exercise classes, seeing with good turnout rates to practice yoga, pilates and weightlifting.
  • We received 93 ergonomics assessments of workstations set up in total.
  • With the reduction of staff traveling to office, it reduces our carbon footprint and increases time utilisation.
  • Wellbeing is a highly focused-on topic to be practised.
  • New ways of working in the office.
  • Staff can use our virtual doctor to seek medical attention without going to the physical clinic. 

Unintended positive consequences of our innovative strategy included:

  • WFH allows staff to look after young children and family members,
  • Work life balance evolves into work life integration,
  • Ergonomics, employee health and wellbeing concepts were emphasised and saw greater awareness among employees,
  • Technology advancement adoption is speeding up to support WFH. This supports remote working and easier cooperation among people from different countries. 

Q What is your message to all the stakeholders who have supported you in this journey?

Thank you to all stakeholders for believing in the workplace strategy around performance with choice. We took a leap of faith in believing this strategy will work, through the data received, survey results collected from the staff, and listening to staff feedback in ensuring we provide the support required.

Q What are you most excited about when you think about the future of HR?

We have such a dynamic team that spans across departments and functions. Our applications were led by teams who manage our office operations, health & wellbeing, recruitment, HR business partners, and even external partners.

This is a result of great teamwork which means there are no challenges that we cannot overcome, be it the external environment or internal engagement. 


Image / GSK (featuring the interviewee, Anne Lau, third from right, holding the award)

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices – head over to our Winning Secrets’ section!

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