Exclusive Interview with Jason McCann, Founder of Vari and TBHF Alum Class of ‘96
In the last year, businesses small and large all around the country have shifted from the typical 9-5 office environment to working from home. Working remotely has its advantages, but it also poses new challenges. While some companies have already made the decisions to switch to remote working full time, others are investigating hybrid options, allowing employees to work from home part-time. Some are starting to transition back to the office, but with new measures in place to keep employees safe. No matter which category you fall into, it is crucial for entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders to have the tools for success readily available when working remotely.
Jason McCann, co-founder and CEO of Vari, was committed to finding the best strategies and practices for leading his company remotely.
Jason co-founded Vari (previously VariDesk) in 2013 and the brand quickly became synonymous with sit-stand desks. Under Jason’s leadership, Vari has grown at an incredible pace, expanding its product offerings significantly. The original VariDesk® sit-stand desk converter was so successful it set the standard for the industry and inspired a whole new category of active workspace products.
Vari’s mission is to help companies create environments that elevate people. With so many now working from home, that mission is more important than ever before. In fact, earlier this year it was announced that Vari was partnering with Geekdom (founded by TBHF Legend Graham Weston) in San Antonio to reimagine coworking spaces in the age of COVID-19.
The Texas Business Hall of Fame had the pleasure of speaking with Jason on leadership and productivity in a world of remote working.
Vari has hundreds of employees. How has the company adjusted to working remotely?
Our employees transitioned over to remote work in a matter of hours. While remote, we surveyed our teams to see how they were doing mentally and physically, as well as what tools they needed to work their best. We then provided our desks, chairs, and other work from home products, like dual monitors, for our employees. While everyone was out of the office, we started to think about how we could bring our team back to the office safely. We transformed our 82,000 SF headquarters by increasing space between workstations, adding acrylic panels and our movable walls as barriers, adding temperature scanners, single serve coffee stations, hand sanitizers, and implementing extensive safety protocols. We brought our team back to the office slowly and in phases. Since June 2020, we’ve been 100% back in the office. Many companies are planning to have a hybrid workspace, and we’ve helped companies like Google implement programs to set employees up with everything they need to work from home in a healthy, productive way.
As CEO, what strategies did you find helpful in leading your team and communicating effectively when you weren’t able to be in the office with your team?
At 2:00 am when my mind was restless and I was feeling the stress of uncertainty one night in the early days of COVID, it dawned on me that my team must be feeling even more pressure than me. So I leaned into overcommunicating and leading with empathy and love. As a leader, I thought about how I could make sure everyone on the team knew what was happening with the business. I started sending out daily emails to all of our employees to let them know exactly what was on my mind, that I believed we would survive this Covid storm and ultimate thrive. We held weekly Zoom town halls, started Zoom yoga classes, monthly book clubs, shared ideas on ways to serve those in need in our community and more. By leaning into our values, our culture has emerged stronger. We circled around a rallying cry, “Keep Rowing Until the Wind Catches Our Sails,” that kept us all pushing forward together.
There are several advantages to working from home, but it also comes with its fair share of distractions. Do you have any advice for improving productivity while working at home?
People perform at their best when they have a dedicated workspace that has all of the tools they need to do good work. When you have the same technology and tools at home that you have in the office, it creates a seamless experience so you can focus and be more productive. For example, if you always worked with two monitors and a standing desk in the office, investing in the same setup at home can help improve productivity and focus. Marker boards at home can provide walls or space for you to dedicate for working hours.
Can you tell us a little more about your partnership with Geekdom and how you worked together to redesign the co-working space?
Learning that Geekdom is providing a space to incubate the next generation of entrepreneurs excited me. I believe entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of our economy. So we helped transform, update, and enhance Geekdom’s coworking space so that entrepreneurs could come together and collaborate safely. Our flexible workspace solutions are ideal for high-growth companies, so our partnership with Geekdom was a perfect fit. We installed privacy booths, electric standing desks, soft seating, our moveable QuickFlex Walls, acrylic panels around desks, and new lighting. The energy is incredible and the entrepreneurs are powering ahead.
A workspace innovation company, Vari helps growing organizations unlock the potential of their space and their people. From a collection of office furniture to workspaces offering space-as-a-service, the company makes it easy for high-growth businesses to scale and flex their office space. Organizations all over the world — including over 98% of the Fortune 500 — use Vari products, which are tested and certified to the highest industry standards.