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While previously many pharmaceutical, research and development and biotech organisations have been located in more traditional style office buildings, spread over large floor plates with bespoke but fixed technology, IT and lab infrastructures, workplaces for the Life Sciences industry have traditionally sat behind the curve ball of modern workplace design. However the pandemic has played a pivotal role in the progression of technology amongst the Life Sciences sector, excelling the traditional notions of work and lab space to cope with the global crisis and compelling many science organisations to collaborate with other industries in order to develop the fastest novel vaccine in history.
As a result the Life Sciences sector is now embarking upon a “new-normal” embracing the momentum of the digitalisation movement, realising that with it comes better innovation, production, distribution and administration and re-defining work and workplace environments at the same time. We’ve taken a look at some of the key-ways digitalisation is forcing a change in how design and build workplace environments for the Life Sciences sector.
There is no question that the pandemic caused a sudden behavioural shift in our approach to work across most sectors, forcing many to reimagine their work flows and bringing with it significant long-term change to how we operate within workspaces. Like most others, driven by the requirement to work remotely, the Life Sciences sectors was forced integrate and adopt new technology into everyday work practices in order to allow for this required flexibility.
While previously the majority of scientists, particularly those working within research and development have carried out and recorded testing and trail experiments in physical labs, the pandemic has forced the hand of many to adopt automated technologies where they can. Mostly these have been integrated for tasks that are repetitive and standardised and thus have triggered a rise in the adoption of AI technologies across the sector. The continual roll out and sophistication of AI technologies in laboratories over the past twelve months has led to changing perspectives of workplace requirements within the sector. With data recording becoming more digitalised and re-shaping the process of data production, in many cases discoveries that were previously made over extended periods of time can now be made within a matter of months, and the role of scientists is shifting to become more analytical.
This shifting in roles has led to a change in the types of spaces scientists are seeking from their workplace and led to an increased demand for both focus and collaboration spaces. Different space typologies such as unplugged space for uninterrupted concentration which might include focus booths, private desk spaces, privacy pods and study nooks are becoming more frequently sought after. While space for collaborative work that may have previously taken place in the lab whilst data collection activities were taking place, now need to take place elsewhere and we are seeing an increase in demand for more traditional style office spaces to allow collaborative work to take place adjacent to laboratory space.
Unlike previous workplace designs for the Life Sciences sector which have historically been more rigid and formal spaces, this demand for more collaborative space is driving the uptake of more informal style workspaces such as café or lounge style spaces for impromptu collaborations, semi-enclosed workspace that has an element of auditory privacy to allow for free flowing communication and the inclusion of more collaborative workplace technologies such a smart whiteboards, AV and teleconferencing equipment for the presentation and sharing of data.
Digital disruption has reached the Life Sciences sector and with many researchers now moving away from While for most other sectors the rise of digital technologies over recent years has led to a reduction in the amount of office real estate required through the adoption of desk sharing and agile working agendas, the reality is different within lab spaces. Many Life Science sector tenants are now finding they require more space as the demand for more sophisticated technology is ever increasing, the amount of space needed to house equipment and hardware is increasing.
In most cases old infrastructure needs to remain, while new technologies are added to the space and often these are combined with tougher regulatory and safety requirements which frequently involve a requirement for additional ‘safety-space’ around the perimeter of such equipment placing significant demand for increased building footprints.
More specifically some AI technologies and processes require specific linear space formations and can sometimes not be accommodated within existing lab spaces, leading to the introduction of ‘split labs’ where such equipment is separated. In such instances it order to discourage the separation of your workforce we recommend design elements such as transparent or glazed walls and doors to give the impression of openness and connectivity between teams and create better synergies for collaborations.
Just like we’ve seen throughout the wider workplace community the adoption of digital communication tools in the Life Sciences sector has quickly become the new norm and being able to connect and transact at the stroke of a key has become an expectation. With the rise in proliferation around the concept of communication being the cornerstone to an engaged workforce, Life Science tenants are also increasingly demanding better digital tools to be built into their workplace to provide easy and seamless ways for teams to communicate in real time.
For decades, email has been the dominant form of workplace communication. But with the rise of technologies powered by the cloud, workers are increasingly able to collaborate using innovative new mixtures of video, smart-screen touch and messaging apps. By facilitating easy access to information and people, digital communication and platforms for digital collaboration make it much easier for employees to be productive and get their work done.
Integrating more digital communication tools into your workplace design can lead to better scientific exploration, opening up conversations across locations, time zones and languages.
Additionally with the emergence of smart labs which contain connected machines, equipment, sensors and devices which allow researchers to monitor, adjust and analyse experiments remotely, the Life Sciences sector is opening up to allow for more hybrid and remote working practices than ever before. Enabling this requires Life Sciences organisations to progress their technology provisions in order to allow for the requisite network changes, cloud migrations, VPN and other remote technology solutions.
This is creating a catalyst of change in the demand for meeting rooms, break-out spaces, telephone booths and conference rooms. Ensuring there are a variety of these collaborative spaces that enable teams to collaborate with their remote colleagues gives your whole team choice of how they wish to work. This gives them control over how they manage their days dependent on their tasks and scheduled meetings. In the increasingly competitive landscape of the Life Sciences industry ensuring your workplace design is responsive and integrated with new technology will give you a competitive advantage in the war on talent. While the path is being laid for more dynamic, integrated and technology led workplace environments for those in the sciences and pharmaceutical sectors, Life Sciences companies need to continually adopt these practices in order to foster future innovation.
We can help you stay ahead of the curve ball and develop seamlessly integrated lab and workspaces that inspire scientific productivity. Get in touch today to talk to one of our experts.