Horizon Therapeutics CEO Tim Walbert: It’s Just Better In Person

While other companies tout remote work as a perk, Walbert has asked employees to come back to the office, but says he isn't losing anyone as a result.
Horizon Therapeutics CEO Tim Walbert
Horizon Therapeutics CEO Tim Walbert

As the debate over in-person vs. remote vs. hybrid rages on, at least one CEO isn’t budging on his position that in-person is best. “We’ve just seen much better collaboration when we’re live,” says Tim Walbert, who leads global biotechnology company Horizon Therapeutics, noting that his own time is much more productive as well. “I can walk down the hall and meet seven, eight people, which would take me a day and a half to do on Zoom calls that I would have had to plan over three weeks.” In-person is also critical for mentoring and professional development; while both can theoretically be done online, it just isn’t the same. “You cannot replace personally coaching people.”

So Walbert had no qualms about asking his employees to coming in five days a week. But he is also fully aware that his employees have remote options elsewhere. “We recognize that you have to make your office a place people want to go. So we asked, how do we make coming here as easy as possible, knowing that we all have lives and a lot going on?”

One of those ways is to offer a bevy of perks at the 650,000-square-foot complex in Deerfield, Illinois, which was redesigned in 2020 and includes a multipurpose training center, game lounge, fitness center, full-service cafeteria and a walking track. “I was involved in picking every carpet, wood, every different piece,” says Walbert. “We see [design] as a core part of our culture, so it’s something in which I’m very involved. You really have to make your offices a destination people where people want to be.”

But while he wants employees in the office five days a week, he is also adamant that flexibility is critical, and he doesn’t believe in micromanaging time off. “We can get too caught up in, ‘Have we measured every 20 minutes of PTO time?’ versus just do your job, be successful, and if you have things going on in your lives, take care of them,” says Walbert, who, as someone with a chronic autoimmune disease whose son suffers from the same affliction, understands how unpredictable life can get. To help employees better manage work and life, the biotech company offers on-site services like daycare and dry cleaning.

So far, he hasn’t seen significant pushback. “We’re at two-thirds of the turnover rate of our sector, so we’ve fared extremely well from that standpoint,” he says, noting that the company has grown from 800 employees to 2,200 since the pandemic began.


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