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Executive Perspectives

Executive Perspectives: Jason McCann

The CEO and co-founder of Vari believes that in a crisis like this, mental wellbeing is just as critical as physical health.
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Before Jason McCann co-founded VariDesk in 2012 and became the CEO, he learned the importance of putting consumers first as a young boy sweeping up hair at his mother’s hair salon. McCann’s VariDesk set the standard in the Home and Office Industry, with a streamlined process, by creating new categories of active workspace products. Since conception, the company has become synonymous with sit-stand desks and now operates under the new name Vari.

Did your business continuity plan work, or were there surprises?

We had a plan in place for times of crisis, and as soon as the situation started to unfold, we pulled our Emergency Committee together and started to talk about our next steps. The format we had in place worked well. Managing a company of more than 350 employees who are now working remotely is all about communication, communication, and more communication.

Our Emergency Committee team is meeting at least once a day to make sure we’re working through any issues together. Similarly, our managers are checking in with their teams twice a day in addition to being available via video conference and Skype. As the CEO, I am sending out daily communication to the entire company and hosting weekly companywide Zoom Meetings. When change inevitably happens, we’re ready and informed.

Have you found silver linings in these difficult times?

I’m so proud that the team has leaned in with our values and shown true resilience, patience, and flexibility as we’ve attacked this challenge head-on serving each other and our fans. We are in a unique position to help our fans work from home, allowing us to continue to weather this storm.

In a way, I feel like I’m getting to know my team even better. We do a lot of videoconferencing, so I’m seeing their homes, their families, and their pets. We’re also taking a few minutes each call to connect on a more human level, and it allows me to see them in a whole new way.

I’m also sending out an all-team email every day, sometimes twice a day. While it’s hard to duplicate the flexibility of a quick chat at the coffee bar, I want the team to hear from me. And, what’s great is, I’ve been getting emails back! Employees will send me a note to say hello, share an inspirational quote or prayers, or share a moment of their day. We’re keeping that sense of community.

How are you maintaining your company culture?

Shifting remote was a big change for our workforce, and we’ve been very deliberate about how we can keep our culture thriving. Here are three things we found:

Over-communicate: We recognize all of our employees are in different situations, so we’re asking our managers to stay close to them and talk to them daily. I’m personally sending a daily email to keep them encouraged and connected; I also started doing weekly virtual town halls.

Focus on all elements of wellness: By now, we all know to wash our hands and stay home if we’re ill, but mental health is also critical at a time like this. We’re emphasizing employee wellbeing, as almost 100 percent of the company transitions to remote work. Some of the ways we do that are by sharing meditation tips, hosting book clubs, sharing what works and doesn’t, recipes, as well as encouraging the use of benefits we offer like telemedicine services and our Employee Assistance Program for free counseling services.

Be flexible: When possible, we’re flexible with employees and their schedules. Many employees juggle parenting responsibilities, in the absence of daycares and closed schools, while they work remotely and many also have elderly parents and family to care for.

Do you have advice for other local business leaders?

I tell my team it’s imperative that we “keep rowing until the wind catches our sails.” No one knows how long this will last, but we can all help by pulling together as a team, a community, a nation, and as citizens of the world.

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