Firm for the future: G+T goes open plan

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Gilbert + Tobin has done completely away with personal offices in the name of collaboration.

The firm of 450 picked up from Park Street over the weekend and on Monday opened-up-shop at Barangaroo, following a nine-month period trialling an open plan work system.  Now, not one member of the Gilbert + Tobin Sydney team has an office.

“I just like the engagement with people, it just gives you energy,” managing partner Danny Gilbert told Australasian Lawyer.

“If you think about what an office does, an office is a place where you can imagine you can have quieter time, where you can own the space, you can chuck your rubbish around and you don’t have to meet anybody’s requirements or needs other than your own.”

For Gilbert, a self-declared people person, the idea of needing permission to enter another person’s space is incredibly stifling to collaboration and immediate communication.

“It’s about setting the work environment up for the future,” he said.  

“The future is about collaboration, the future is about mobility and flexibility and the immediacy of the interaction and the breaking down of traditional office hierarchies.

“In a highly flexible and dynamic environment, you need to think about and breakdown as many barriers to communication as you can.”

The idea is that actually seeing other people might make lawyers better at sharing information.  It’s a mindset change, Gilbert said.

“There is the other argument that says that people can’t work as well in open plan because their powers of concentration are interfered with,” Gilbert said.

“You’re going to have the full spectrum of what it is to be a human being here and for some people, they don’t like change and some people like their own space.

“But the benefits that flow from open plan across a large cohort of people, in my opinion, outweigh those negatives.”
 
Confidentiality was the other hurdle, said chief operating officer Sam Nickless.

“The big thing is about making sure that most of our information is digital,” he said.

“That helps a lot with confidentiality.”

Nickless said that putting the necessary infrastructure in place was huge part of the planning process.  Everybody has a laptop and headset, and the office is fitted with plenty of breakout rooms.

“We’ve tried to mitigate the negatives by having big work stations with plants around them so there’s sort of semi-privacy and there are little rooms so if they’re more comfortable in that, they’ve got those available to them,” Nickless said.

A refresh of the firm’s brand was also launched this week in conjunction with the move, complete with a brand new logo.
 
Gilbert + Tobin