Becoming a partner at global professional services giant KPMG no longer means getting your own office.
They’ve been done away with them at the new Sydney headquarters of the professional services giant – and yes, even for partners, and the CEO.
It’s not just open plan. No-one owns a desk.
The whole idea is to have happier, more productive staff who work well together, and it’s part of the “activity-based working” trend in office design that has been adopted by other corporates in Australia, including the Commonwealth Bank and CBRE.
KPMG has just moved 2500 people into International Towers in the heart of Barangaroo, Sydney’s biggest development project.
The lack of individual offices is noticeable. What replaces them is a luxurious series of floors high in the Sydney sky that is broken into different functional areas.
That doesn’t mean by department function, but by the type of work that needs to be done at any given time.
There are areas for collaboration which tend to a bit more noisy.
But there are quiet areas as well, place for individuals to work, to finish writing a project or put together ideas for a new one.
The CEO, Gary Wingrove, carries his laptop and a phone headset in a bag.
Like everyone else, he takes a desk to fit what’s he’s doing that day, plugs in his laptop and connects his phone. Then he’s ready to go.
“I just plonk myself down wherever,” he told Business Insider.
At the end of the day, he packs up, puts the equipment in a secure locker and leaves the building.
Susan Ferrier, national managing partner, people, performance and culture at KPMG Australia, took us on a tour of the new offices.
“These are the lockers you have on each floor, so you have your own locker,” she explained.
“There are all sorts of little spots. Here’s where teams collaborate with each other and it’s reasonably noisy. Then there’s a spark zone, so if you wanted to get together and think of ideas, create a pack or presentation together or just talk.”
She whispers: “And then we move to areas which are more focused and the sound is more constrained. No phone calls are to be taken here, it’s quieter.”
Are there set desks?
“No, they move around,” she says. “Yes, they hot desk. All the partners and the employees are all out there together.”
Does it work?
“We’ve moved from fixed desks and offices to choose-where-you-are-going-to-work,” she says.
“There was a bit of anxiety and concern to begin with but what we’ve experienced is that everyone is embracing it.
“Because it’s been designed with such thought and care, with an eye to beauty, everyone is feeling very lifted.
“They are loving it.
“I sat behind a partner the other day — one of those crusty tax partners who would be surrounding by copies of the tax acts — and what he was loving was how he was teaching people. Because you are more accessible, people come up to you more often.
“It was fantastic to watch.”
The company hopes it will ultimately improve customer service.
“I think they will get a warmer, insightful, KPMG. As firm we known as being good people to collaborate with. This is taking it to a whole new level. We are known as the more people-orientated out of the big four and we like that position.
“If you see your CEO sitting out in an open pan, accessible and enjoying his work … that also has a trickle effect through the business.”
The offices, occupying the top 12 floors of Tower 3 at Barangaroo, have 360-degree views of Sydney via glass walls.
Ten of the floors are work areas and there is a hospitality floor and a connect floor with informal spaces for teams to collaborate with clients.
Here are some more photos we managed to round up of the space: