In biotech, an office is more than just an address. In addition to being where we work, it should also reflect who we are and how we aspire to work together. At Generation Bio, we seek to create a culture where people can thrive and succeed in a highly transparent, inclusive and collaborative environment. When we recently moved into a new office, every decision about the space was made in service of that goal.
Before the move, we began by involving our 70 employees in a visioning and workflow mapping exercise to identify the key features of a workspace that would support and amplify our values in action. What emerged was a focus on an open environment without offices, but replete with meeting rooms and both formal and informal collaboration spaces. We used glass extensively in our design, allowing natural light in every lab space and providing visual continuity between the office and labs. We emphasized spare, functional design choices and spent resources on abundant plants and increased ceiling height.
In biotech, an office is more than just an address.
These themes also carried through to our technology choices. We had already implemented Slack to facilitate immediate and broad sharing of data and analysis within and across our teams, and went further to equip every collaboration space and meeting room with Zoom videoconferencing and sharing capability. We have an app that allows people to quickly find one another on an interactive seating map, and a check-in system that notifies our teams by text and Slack the minute that guests arrive.
A major focal point of the office is a large, eclectic café to facilitate impromptu gathering as well as weekly Town Hall meetings. The café, filled with snacks (and a multitude of coffee choices of course), lacks a few conventional features of company kitchens. For example, our team moved to eliminate all disposable plastics and minimize bottled or canned items. Instead, we use regular plates and tableware for all events and lunches, and manage consumables with recycling and compost. The café is also where we host a disco party for an hour every Friday morning — a longstanding tradition at our former site that we wanted to continue in our new home.
We also worked to accelerate our science through the design. We decided to arrange seating by cross-functional teams, with teams focused on advancing our therapeutic candidates for liver disorders grouped together in one area, and those focused on retinal disorders collaborating closely in another. We have no group seating defined by hierarchy or function; instead, scientists, leadership team members, administrators and program team members are all mixed together throughout the floor plan. Forgoing offices, we organized these teams into six distinct neighborhoods, each with local greenery, collaboration spaces, conference rooms and seating areas.
Everyone at Generation Bio is here for the same reason – to transform the lives of people living with rare diseases. When we reach an obstacle or feel like we’ve hit a barrier, it helps to be reminded why we come to work every day. With that in mind, we have several “photo walls” that capture portraits of families living with rare diseases who we’ve met at company events. We also created a reflection area to honor the memory of a colleague who passed away from a rare disease in the company’s earliest days, and to provide a quiet space for time away from team-oriented work.
Smaller, more lighthearted touches throughout the office have made it feel like home. Our team voted to name our conference rooms after video game locations – now we hold board meetings in Peach’s Castle and give presentations in Bowser’s Keep. It’s a nice reminder that big goals, even very serious ones, require some humor and perspective along the way.
While we’re still unpacking and settling in, we’re already seeing the benefits of being together under one roof in an environment that’s designed to enable everyone to work at their best, individually and in teams. Our name represents who we are, what we do and why we do it. The next time you’re in the neighborhood, we invite you to come visit Generation Bio and see where it’s happening, too.