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At Docusign, a core lesson from 2020 is 'Employees First'

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Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
·4 min read
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By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Unprecedented workplace changes in 2020 had a silver lining for Docusign Chief Executive Dan Springer.

His San Francisco-based company, which has helped businesses manage agreements electronically since its founding in 2003, is booming as office work has shifted to bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms and documents need to be signed virtually.

Springer, 57, expects the trend to continue even after offices can safely reopen.

"Of our 5,000 employees, only a small percentage didn't work in the office before, and we went to 100% in March," said Springer, who was named a recipient of the 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award for his leadership on social change.

"We learned two things: about a third of our work population would actually prefer to work a significant portion of the time from home, and that a significant portion of our job can primarily be done remotely."

Based on this, Docusign will let employees choose where to work once its offices reopen, Springer said. "It's an 'Employee First' strategy. Each employee will decide what portion of time they work in the office and what portion they'll work from home."

Springer talked to Reuters about the lessons he learned in 2020 and how he would apply them. Edited excerpts are below.

Q. What did you learn from your very first job?

A. I was nine years old. I had a fairly large paper route in Seattle. I learned a very good, difficult lesson: That no one else was going to do the job if I didn't do it. Even if you got had a cold, you had to do your paper route.

When I got my first paycheck, I bought nothing. I bought savings. I was an oddity at a young age. I had a strong ability to withhold from myself and delay gratification for something that I wanted. I was always saving for something big, like a bike.

Q. Which workplace changes from this year will be permanent?

A. Now that people have seen the digital transformation of their businesses, they'll never go back to pen and paper and manual processes. They'll see the environmental benefit, that we don't have to cut down trees to do a contract.

Q. What's been your biggest challenge this year?

A. I didn't realize how much of an extrovert I am and how difficult it would be for me not to be with my colleagues. It has really dragged on hard for me.

The only silver lining is that both my sons (aged 21 and 22) came home, and we have had a fantastic time. We do a lot of exercise together, and it got me way back in shape.

Q. Was there ever a moment when you felt like you had "made it?"

A. I worked for a company that was sold to Oracle in 2013. It was so lucrative. I felt like I didn't need to work again. So I stopped working and stayed home for four years with my kids during their middle school and high school periods.

I took them to all their soccer and lacrosse games. I made every breakfast, every dinner. It was a magical time. Then when the younger one was applying for college, he said, "You're crowding me a little, Dad. You should just go get a job."

Q. What job advice do you often give?

A. Just go out and be successful at whatever your job is and great opportunities will come your way. They'll come to people who are crushing it.

Think of it as a Venn diagram. Look at the stuff you're good at and the stuff you have fun doing. What's in the intersection? You shouldn't do anything that's outside of that intersection.

Q. Any new work habits in 2020?

A. Exercising throughout the day. I'll do 50 pushups or 50 situps and then two hours later, I'll do it again. I try to get to 400 push-ups, 400 sit-ups and maybe 400 squats a day. It's a great energizer.

You get to my age, and it's 2 o'clock, after lunch, and you might be thinking of a nap. This gives me a little spurt of energy and keeps me sharper. (Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang)