BMS will get cozy and collaborative at new U.S. campus

Collaboration is the catchword of the moment when it comes to pharma work environments, and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) is buying into that concept big time. The U.S. drugmaker will build a new campus in New Jersey for about 2,500 that it promises will pump up "collaboration, creativity and innovation," much as Biogen Idec ($BIIB), Novartis ($NVS) and others have done before it.

Work on the 650,000-square-foot campus in Lawrence Township will begin this fall and is slated to be complete in 2016, the drugmaker announced today. The new facility will have things like personal desktop video capabilities and a high-definition video conferencing environment where workers can be immersed in the work. BMS said it is one piece of a broader plan to modernize its facilities to encourage interaction and that it is taking a similar approach at other facilities around the world.

The idea, popular with tech companies, is that using architecture to get employees out of warrens of cubicles and managers from behind closed doors will get them to interact, and that a casual conversation or overheard remark might spark an idea that will build to the next big thing.

Lots of companies have had open work areas to foster collaboration for years, but GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) drew attention within the biopharma industry when it opened its new U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia's Navy Yard in 2012. There are no offices or assigned desks because GSK's "workplace strategy" manager said employees only worked 35% of the time in offices and cubicles. The company has claimed that the work environment is speeding decision-making.

Novartis has done something like this with an oncology building in New Jersey and has designed lots of shared conference and work areas into its new Australian headquarters. Biogen's Kendall Square headquarters in Cambridge, MA, has huddle rooms and "walk stations" where employees can work while using a treadmill, as well as other features to accommodate a no-private-office environment. Merck KGaA and AstraZeneca ($AZN) also are building facilities with collaboration in mind, for employees, not each other.

- here's the release