In the weeks and months leading up to the shift from the old offices in Melbourne’s Southbank to the brand new bespoke building just across the road, Helen Fazzino had a vivid image in her mind of how things would be.
As Head of the People, Partnership and Culture team at PwC, Fazzino has been deeply invested in planning and imagining how the new environments in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney will unfold as both canvas and container for an invigorated work culture, for new ways of interacting, for what has been dubbed PwC’s new ways of working.
Plenty of serendipitous encounters will inevitably happen here, much as they do in any thriving community.
“In the new building,” she reveals, “I have this vision in my head of looking down at conversations and not being able to tell the difference between a PwC person and a client.”
Fazzino says that, prior to moving to the new buildings, “nine times out of 10, we invited clients to have a meeting in here and on one side of the table is PwC and on the other side is the client.”
“My image in our new space is that we’ve picked the space that works for whatever the problem is, we’ve got the right people in the room and this barrier between who is PwC and who is the client - that invisible curtain - just disappears.”
There’s been a determination to shatter any barriers - both physical and metaphorical - that might hinder interactions, obstruct cross-fertilisation or stymie collaborative solutions.
In fact, talk to anyone involved in these new workplaces and you hear the word “bump” a lot.
Debra Eckersley, New Ways of Working Partner, states: “In our Melbourne and Sydney offices, the four-storey staircases are the centrepiece of our commitment to a new openness, and a real willingness to seed spontaneous encounters. Plenty of serendipitous encounters will inevitably happen here, much as they do in any thriving community.”
Every business talks about putting their clients at the centre of their work. But what does it look like when client needs inform every business process?
But if the stairs are the most tangible element of what you can call an “engineered happenstance” in the new workplace, then the real challenge is to make sure this same spirit can spread throughout our entire organisation.
One of the big ways of ensuring this in any organisation, maintains Joseph Carrozzi, Market Managing Partner, Sydney, is being able to tap into diversity. And by that he means both plugging into the diversity of the client base and having that “matched equally by the diversity of your people.”
A key principle with any new building and workspace, be it a people floor or client-collaboration floor, is that if you encourage everyone to mix more, you can take the latent power of specialisation and supercharge it with a dose of diversity and engagement.
To this end, the new workplaces must be characterised by “a lack of domain,” Carrozzi says.
On the people floors, PwC is entering our fifth iteration of Activity Based Working (ABW). In this latest incarnation, a new custom app called Switch enables people to find a workpoint for their activity on their laptop, smart device or screen (whether it’s a quiet, focused spot or collaborative spot). All PwC people are encouraged to use the client collaboration floors as they see fit - no matter if they’re engaging with others coming from outside the organisation or not.
“There won’t be a place where the financial services team sits or where the technology team sits,” Carrozzi says. “Those days are behind us. Our greatest strength is when our technical specialists work well together, but they work even better as a diverse group. It’s our brand promise, rather than a collection of individual specialisations. It’s that hybrid of skills and mixing them together with the client that I think gives us a really big opportunity.”
Boil everything down even further, adds Sammy Kumar, Head of Strategy, Innovation and Ventures, and the broad opportunity that a flexible, open, agile, deconstructed physical environment offers is its unconstrained potential to “lift a set of values and underpin behaviours.”
“You can talk about ‘reimagine the possible’,” he says, “but is that just a nice thing to put on a Powerpoint? How are you doing it?” Kumar says. A new space can be “a massive help, but it also exposes when we’re not living those behaviours. If we still act the same way as we did before the physical environment will show us up and the experience will be jarring for our clients.”
There’ll be no invisible curtain to hide behind. “Then again, if we live to the behaviours,” he says, “then [the new workplace] will be a massive enabler in helping to solve our clients’ most complex problems.”
© 2017 - 2020 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.