In a time where working from home is rampant, businesses like Vari are invaluable.
Trust us: Vari knows what makes a workspace work. Vari offers “flexible workspace solutions.” In other words, they are creators of the products that make your office the one of your dreams — from standing desks, to specially designed lighting, to monitor arms.
This week, we spoke to Vari’s COO Jeff Lamb to talk shop. We speak about what makes a workspace valuable, how to work from home successfully, and the role of biophilia in the office space.
Q: What is the creation story of Vari? How did it come to be?
A: In truth, I had no idea about Vari until two years ago when I took the job, so I get zero credit for the creation and invention, but it’s a wonderful story. One of Vari’s co-founders, Dan, started a company right out of college that sold novelties — things like carvable pumpkins and the Big Mouth Billy Bass (which they sold 20 million of). The success with the Big Mouth Billy Bass gave Dan the opportunity to expand into other businesses.
So, as they’re working on their new idea, Dan begins to have back pain. They’re ordering all of these different desks, he’s standing on cardboard boxes…the only product that would feasibly work is incredibly expensive and very hard to assemble…So he says to his designer: I just want a desk that’s fully assembled and goes up and down.
The timing was perfect. On their trip over to look at the newly designed prototypes, the Mayo Clinic actually comes out with an article that says, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Our desks were immensely successful, and that’s led Vari into creating a variety of products that fall under the category of flexible workspace solution.
Q: You have all of these incredible products to make workspaces comfortable and productive. What is your most valued thing about your work environment?
“We believe that part of having a well building is having lots of space for natural life.”Jeff Lamb
A: The workspace is such an individual thing. The most important thing for Vari is to create workspaces that elevate people — it’s about elevating office culture. After all, anyone can make a desk.
For me personally, I have a no-door policy. Literally, I have no door on my office. That’s my favorite thing about my workspace. I spent 12.5 years at Southwest Airlines — and I had an open-door policy — but to see me, you had to get through 6 or seven doors. Here, I see anyone and everyone and no one has to go through a door.
Q: In a time where everyone is working from home, what are your tips for creating productive and warm work environments at home?
A: There are certain tips, but the biggest thing is to actually create an office space. We’re currently offering a discount for work-from-home bundles. Having an ergonomic solution to working from home is important — especially when the alternative is working from your futon.
The only other thing I feel is important is about virtual connection. You’re meeting remotely and virtually. Connect before you commence. Rather than just jumping right into the to-do list, take time to connect with people before you begin the meeting. In the real world, we connect first and we should in the virtual world as well. Here at Vari, we’re on a rhythm. We actually jump on calls a couple minutes early so we can connect with everyone.
Q: I hear you’re an avid gardener! When did you get into gardening?
A: I read a book called Half Time that split life into two parts. In the first half, people are focused on success; the second half, people tend to focus on significance and wonder: what is my purpose in life? So, in efforts to begin to understand my greater calling, I began on the track of trying new things.
I taught at an MBA program for a while and I served on a number of boards, but ultimately found that I’m a team sports guy. In the midst of all this, one of the things I tried was gardening. I realized that we had some vacant land at our church, and so I thought, “Why don’t we start a community garden?” And I got hooked.
Year after year, while other people faded away, myself and two other people stayed with it. We could grow so much food on this half acre. We’d give what we harvested Monday through Friday to MetroChrist Services and on Saturday, we’d take it to a ministry that feeds the homeless. I realized that this was something I wanted to do forever.
At some point, the property was needed by the church for another purpose. So I went out and bought this property. It’s about 35 feet by 60 feet. I did onions in it the first year, potatoes the next. So I’ve got a permanent garden that’s got me hooked.
Q: Have you combined your two worlds? Do you have plants in your workspaces?
A: We’re a huge proponent of biophilia at Vari. We have tons of live plants internally and have invested literally millions of dollars in the courtyards to make the outdoors embodied as well. We believe that part of having a well building is having lots of space for natural life and embracing biophilia.
Plants are good for increasing productivity and decreasing tension, yes, but gardens are a wonderful way to build community and teamwork. When I was at Southwest, we created raised garden beds. Each department would sign up to take care of different beds. More and more, you would see the teams come together. We’re actually in talks with Gardenuity to introduce gardening in Vari to build community.