Biogen Idec, Cambridge, MA


Featured in the new Biogen Idec buildings will be huddle rooms that officials hope will encourage unplanned meetings.

CAMBRIDGE — Can office architecture drive corporate culture?

Biogen Idec Inc., the largest biotechnology company based in Massachusetts, is about to find out.

Starting this week, about 300 employees are moving from older offices on the company’s Kendall Square research and manufacturing campus to the first of two new buildings opening this year. Building 9, as the six-story, 190, 000-square-foot complex is called, will house drug development operations, including a preclinical group managing toxicology studies, a regulatory group responsible for government filings, and data managers who track clinical trials.

The“open space” design is a radical departure from operations elsewhere at Biogen Idec and other biotechs. The organizational structure of those traditional hierarchies is mirrored in the architecture, where executive offices are lined up along the windows, while rank-and-file employees are clustered in cubicles in the center of floors.

Building 9 has no private offices, just individually designed workstations called “I spaces” and common “huddle rooms” for private phone calls or spontaneous meetings. Each floor has two “walk stations” where employees can work while walking on treadmills. The company has scrapped telephone landlines for Building 9 employees, who are issued laptops and headsets.

“This whole idea of no offices is a little controversial, ” admitted chief executive George Scangos. “It’s a new way of working. The idea is to foster more collaboration. People can talk to each other now. A lot of ideas can come out of these informal discussions.”

The company runs a commuter bus with Wi-Fi and charging spots. The “open space” design is a radical departure from operations elsewhere at Biogen Idec and other biotechs.
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