GlaxoSmithKline relocates US operations in Philadelphia, North Carolina as COVID-19 cuts its office space needs

GlaxoSmithKline is leaving offices in North Carolina and Philadelphia (pictured above) in favor of smaller spaces in the same regions as it embraces a new working environment that offers employees flexibility. (Robert A.M. Stern Architects/GSK)

Many companies have shifted their way of working amid COVID-19. Adjusting to how work is done these days, GlaxoSmithKline is downsizing its office footprint in the U.S. by moving to new locations.

GSK is leaving offices in North Carolina and Philadelphia in favor of smaller spaces in the same regions. The new workplaces “reflect the way we work now, giving our people flexibility and new spaces that optimize collaboration,” a GSK spokesperson said.

In North Carolina, GSK will leave its 562,000 square-foot campus in Research Triangle Park (RTP) after nearly 40 years as a resident. The U.K. pharma is downsizing and moving to the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham, North Carolina, with offices of 68,000 square feet. The U.S. headquarters of GSK’s HIV-focused joint venture ViiV Healthcare is also part of this relocation.

At the same time, GSK plans to change its Philadelphia location from the 207,780-square-foot Navy Yard site to about 50,000-square-feet of new offices at the FMC Tower in University City. The region is also home to many biotechs, including gene therapy experts at Roche’s Spark Therapeutics and Excision BioTherapeutics.

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Both moves are expected to happen in early or the first half of 2022, with no job losses, the GSK spokesperson said. Before the pandemic, about 1,300 people worked out of the RTP site, and about 660 people at the Philly location.

GSK has been offering its staffers the flexibility to work from home during the pandemic. The company expects the number of employees working from either of the new offices each day will be half the pre-pandemic level at maximum.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have had an opportunity to re-evaluate, and ultimately redefine, the ways in which we work,” the GSK spokesperson said. The new spaces will have fewer individual cubicles and more open areas for informal collaboration, plus more advanced technology.

The changes “align our offices with how we now function, offering flexibility for our people and optimally sized spaces where teams will continue to engage and thrive,” the spokesperson added.

RELATED: Pfizer weighs sale of Philly-area campus—where 2,000 once worked—as company mulls when and how to bring employees back

Industrywide, biopharma companies have shifted their working models during the pandemic, adopting a hybrid of in-person and remote work. During an interview with Bloomberg in April, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said he expects the combination of in-office and at-home work will persist after the pandemic.

“We’ll be looking I think to adjust our overall footprint and then invest where appropriate,” Narasimhan said of the shift.

In April, Pfizer reportedly put its massive 340-acre Collegeville campus in the Philly area up for sale. Pfizer later told Fierce Pharma that it's weighing various options for the facility while trying to “understand the interest level in the current site.”  

“The decision to do so is primarily being driven by the company’s evolving flexible working model, providing employees with greater flexibility to work remotely while still maintaining the ability to connect and collaborate regularly on-site” once pandemic restrictions ease, Pfizer said at the time.