Focus Muse: Christina Disler

Words by Louise Miller

Photography by Brit Gill

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We were blown away when we walked into Werklab to meet with the company’s founder, Christina Disler. First off, the ceilings are so high and the windows so tall that the light streams in beautifully—even on rainy, grey Vancouver days. On the far side, there is a booth that runs probably 30 feet down the wall—its like a chic Parisian cafe, except everyone is working instead of smoking. Plus the art is spectacular, which is not an easy feat in a large, industrial space that demands bigger pieces. And did we mention the zen area of Werklab? There is palo santo burning, essential oils for inhaling, massive walls that swing open to a yoga room, and a bongo that Disler brought back from France (if you feel so inclined to bust out some beats). While this sounds like a beautiful hotel (or maybe even a camp for adults), Werklab is actually a co-working space—and it is truly unique.

We chose Disler as the muse for our Focus blend because she is designing the workspace of the future. So we sent her some questions about the journey of starting her own company, how she transitions her mind to get into work mode, and how she takes time for herself.

What led you to found Werklab?

Werklab was birthed after spending over half a decade in human resources and organizational coaching. The inspiration budded through witnessing the shift in the needs of our millennial generation as we came through and disrupted the workforce. As a collective, we have shaken up the status quo in how we work and what our driving motivations are. I wanted to create a space where individuals who were pursuing an independent work path could feel cared for, and supported from a holistic approach.

North American culture has glorified masculine (yang) energy, praising the hustle and the grind, and yet we know that burnout is real and an epidemic. If you look at the CEOs and founders of the top progressive companies, they often speak to the benefits of meditation and a thoughtful, mindful approach to life. Werklab wants to make the spiritual and conscious world accessible and approachable to Vancouver’s brilliant community. We strive to be a safe space, to be the breeding ground for stepping outside our comfort zone and getting vulnerable. After all, without the presence of vulnerability, you cannot foster true connection, nor can you create and innovate.

What has been your greatest challenge so far? Greatest reward?

I almost gave up on Werklab. I truly felt defeated at our one-year anniversary. During the first year of business, I worked harder than ever to build the business up, to keep it open and not have it burn to the ground. I reached the anniversary of its opening (February of 2017) and felt completely tapped out and constricted by the space we were in. I gave myself permission to just be present with where I was at and knew it wasn’t the right time emotionally to be making future focused decisions. Throughout the summer I worked with a business coach who got me deep into vision work for myself, which impacted the business direction. I knew I needed stellar operational support (I had written down that my dream candidate would be an ASM [assistant store manager] from Lululemon) and got clear in the future ethos of Werklab and our offering. In October of 2017, I was headed to Bali and committed to sorting next steps of the business once I returned. When I had my first layover I received two gifts from the universe: one text and one email. The text was from my friend Barbie Bent, founder of Lagree West, saying, “You need to get in touch with the ASM I dealt with at Lululemon West 4th, she’s no longer there and would be an all-star candidate for your general manager role.” The email was from my landlord who wrote, “We have 12,000 square-feet becoming available (and you have the first access to it).”

You travel a lot and also always have so many people in the space that you call your office as well as your business. How do you mentally shift and become intentional about your work time?

I think it’s so important to create rituals to set intentions and space for self. I have always taken an approach that we can’t compartmentalize life and work as two separates, it’s just simply life—and where we get our earnings from is a part of it. Often when I come into the office, I’ll burn palo santo and ask to be connected to whatever I need for that day to be a win. Ironically, a lot of my work gets done from home, however that’s shifting with our new space.

Do you have a favourite area in your new space?

My favourite area is the 2,000-square-foot mindful zen side of our new space. Taking a timeout to reset and re-calibrate is a necessity. I find boundaries have been an ongoing opportunity for growth throughout my twenties, and this gets tested constantly as we’re in service of others at Werklab—in supporting our community with their businesses and wellbeing. I escape to the quiet of our zen lounge, where it feels like you’ve escaped into an oasis in Venice Beach.

What is your vision for the workspace of the future? How do you believe wellness and work will co-exist?

The workspace of the future will be less like work, and more designed as intentional space. Knowing what we now know in how people learn and process information, we have to start recognizing that we can’t take a linear approach to work environments. Some people can thrive in a room full of desks, and the reality is most of us don’t. A sense of autonomy is an integral part of lifting up the millennial generation, and if a company doesn’t choose to incorporate flexibility in how your staff work, it’ll reflect in your company culture and inevitably your bottom line. Human potential can only be maximized if we generally care about their wellbeing.

Who’s a super interesting human you’ve met through Werklab?

Werklab has brought some phenomenal humans into my life. Bree Melanson has been a peer that I met through Werklab who continues to send me the right messages at the perfect moments in time. Bree is a spiritual medium who resides in Carmel.

Outside of work, how do you take time for yourself?

Walks by the ocean. I have a Eucalyptus essential oil bath every other night, with no electronics in site.

What’s your mantra?

Through discomfort comes growth.

This interview has been edited and condensed.