An Interview with Ken Crerar, President and CEO, The Council

Knowing people work differently than they used to, and with The Council’s office lease up for renegotiation, Council President and CEO Ken Crerar let his creative energies fly. Earlier this year, after a five-month stint in temporary office space, The Council moved back into its original space at 701 Pennsylvania Ave., except this time you wouldn’t recognize the place. It is distinctive, cutting edge and bursting with energy.

What was your vision for the new space?
I wanted to mature the open-environment concept in a way that allows our employees to think more freely, move more freely and collaborate with one another. I believe an individual’s environment is important to his or her productivity. Design counts, and the way people feel is important. It’s all about productivity and making people feel comfortable and relaxed in their jobs.

What’s the difference between this space and a traditional office?
The biggest difference is now we have an environment that truly reflects The Council brand that we’ve worked so hard to create. Most office design is functional and cold, and it doesn’t have to be. I had a distinctive design idea and wanted this office to be a place people want to come to. Considering how much time people spend at work, it’s important to me to create a space people enjoy.

Looking at the (almost) finished product, is it what you had envisioned?
Totally. We’re a smart organization that represents the best in the business, and I want our office to reflect that. I want it to be creative and distinctive, like the people who work here and the people we work for.

Give us some specs.
We increased our density substantially, growing from 42 workstations to 61, plus space for 8 to 10 interns. The entire space is a little less than 18,000 square feet. It gives people enough room to do what they do and do it comfortably. There are “touchdown” spaces throughout the office, so everyone has the ability to work somewhere else when they want to. We sit right along Pennsylvania Avenue and have amazing views of the National Archives and the city. It’s great to see people enjoy those views. When you enter the office, you walk into the event area, complete with a coffee bar, farm table and wraparound seating. Our folks can work and have meetings there. The ceilings are exposed, the paint is light and some of the colors and accents are bright. It’s really energetic.

How do you hope this new collaborative setup will change the way your employees work?
We have a strong team environment, and this new setup is certainly built to enhance our team effort. Our temporary space highlighted how isolating it is having everyone in an actual office. Everyone was eager to get back and collaborate across a table. I’m also in an open space, and I think that sends the right signal. I spend more time out, walking around, which is good for the entire team.

Final thoughts?
I would describe it in three words: Quality, innovation, smarts. And the space reflects that. It’s fun. It’s meant to be fun. If you can go to work every day and enjoy it, you’re much better off.