Embracing Remote Work: How We Built Mergify as a Successful Asynchronous Company

Embracing Remote Work: How We Built Mergify as a Successful Asynchronous Company

Julien Danjou

In a world where remote work is becoming increasingly popular, we at Mergify stand out as a prime example of a company that fully embraces the remote-first philosophy. Founded in 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic, our roots are deeply ingrained in the world of open source and remote collaboration. In this blog post, I'll share our journey, discussing how our remote-first approach has shaped Mergify's culture, communication, and team bonding.

The Roots of Remote Work at Mergify

My journey with remote work started 25 years ago when I began my career in the open-source community. Working asynchronously with individuals worldwide on various projects, I gained invaluable experience in remote collaboration. This experience carried over when my co-founder, Mehdi, and I started Mergify. Despite the 700 km distance between us (Mehdi in Toulouse and myself in Paris), we were able to work effectively together, thanks to our prior experience in remote work.

Remote work and open source share a common foundation in their emphasis on collaboration, communication, and the collective pursuit of innovative solutions. Both environments thrive on the contributions of individuals from diverse backgrounds, who bring unique perspectives and expertise to the table. In open source communities, developers work together remotely to create, improve, and maintain software by sharing code, ideas, and feedback. This collaborative approach mirrors the remote work culture, where team members rely on effective communication and cooperation to achieve their goals, despite geographical distances. Moreover, open source projects often depend on asynchronous work, which allows contributors to participate at their own pace, fostering flexibility and autonomy. Similarly, remote work encourages team members to manage their own schedules while still collaborating efficiently. The shared principles of collaboration, communication, and flexibility have allowed both remote work and open source communities to flourish, driving innovation and creating lasting value in their respective domains.

Building a Remote Team

As Mergify began to expand, we decided to continue building the company as fully remote. Hiring primarily within France, we assembled a talented team that could work together asynchronously. While the prospect of hiring internationally remains a possibility, our focus has been on leveraging our strong network within France.

Communication and Synchronization

We rely heavily on Slack for communication and synchronization, just like many modern teams. Zoom meetings are reserved for instances when they are truly necessary, helping to avoid unnecessary interruptions and maintain productivity. To foster team bonding and informal communication, we host thrice-weekly coffee chats on Slack's Huddle feature. These sessions allow team members to come and go as they please for an hour or so, providing a laid-back environment for conversation and connection.

You can even Huddle from the train

One of the key challenges of remote work is ensuring that team members remain connected and maintain open lines of communication. This can be particularly tricky when dealing with team members who might be a bit more reserved or shy. By providing opportunities for casual conversation and fostering a culture of openness, we've managed to bridge these gaps and create a cohesive team.

The Importance of In-Person Connections

While remote work offers numerous advantages, it is still essential for team members to form in-person connections. We address this need through quarterly retreats we call "MAHOS" (Mergify All Hands On-Site). These events involve renting a country house for the entire team to gather and spend a week together. Activities include barbecues, work sessions, board games, discussions, and team-building exercises, providing an opportunity for team members to bond and strengthen their relationships.

Visiting a winery and tasting the products.

Our Hiring Process and Onboarding

To ensure that we hire individuals who align with our remote-first philosophy, our hiring process involves thorough interviews and discussions about remote work expectations. We look for candidates who are self-motivated, have excellent communication skills, and are comfortable with asynchronous collaboration.

Once a new team member joins Mergify, we have an onboarding process in place that helps them get up to speed and feel comfortable in our remote work environment. This includes providing access to necessary tools, resources, and documentation, as well as assigning a mentor to help guide them through the initial stages of their Mergify journey.

Work-Life Balance and Mental Health

We understand that remote work can sometimes blur the lines between work and personal life, making it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. To address this, we encourage our team members to set boundaries and establish routines that help them separate work from their personal lives. We also promote open discussions about mental health and provide support when needed to ensure that our team remains happy and healthy.

Company Culture and Values

Our remote-first approach has also shaped the unique company culture and values at Mergify. We place a strong emphasis on trust, autonomy, and flexibility, which are essential components of a successful remote work environment. We believe that empowering our team members to take ownership of their work and providing them with the flexibility to manage their own schedules leads to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

Extract of our internal company value page.

We also prioritize ongoing learning and personal growth, encouraging our team members to continually develop their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends. Investing in our team's professional development ensures that Mergify remains competitive and innovative.

Creating a Remote Work Culture of Transparency and Openness

One of the cornerstones of a successful remote work environment is fostering a culture of transparency and openness. At Mergify, we believe that open communication and sharing of information are critical to ensuring that our team members feel connected, informed, and valued. To facilitate this, we have established channels and practices for sharing updates on company goals, project progress, and individual achievements. We also encourage our team members to ask questions, provide feedback, and participate in decision-making processes. This open and transparent approach not only helps to build trust among team members but also promotes a sense of belonging and unity within the company. By embracing transparency and open communication, we have cultivated an environment where our team members feel empowered to contribute their best work and collaborate effectively, driving the ongoing success of Mergify in the remote work landscape.

Encouraging Work Flexibility and Time Management

At Mergify, we understand that one of the greatest advantages of remote work is the ability to offer our team members flexibility in managing their work schedules. This flexibility empowers them to find a balance between their professional and personal lives, ultimately leading to increased job satisfaction and productivity. To support this, we encourage our employees to create routines and establish boundaries that enable them to work efficiently while also making time for family, hobbies, and self-care. By trusting our team members to manage their own time effectively, we cultivate a culture of accountability and autonomy that fosters both personal growth and professional success. This approach has not only contributed to a happier and more motivated workforce, but also allowed us to tap into the full potential of our team, driving Mergify's growth and innovation.

Remote Collaboration and Tools

To support our remote-first approach, we utilize various tools and platforms that enable our team to collaborate effectively, regardless of their physical location. Apart from Slack and Zoom, we use GitHub for version control, code collaboration, and issue tracking, and Notion as our primary tool for documentation and knowledge sharing. By leveraging these digital tools, we ensure that our team can work efficiently in a remote setting.

Mergify's employee handbook on Notion

Maintaining Team Morale and Motivation

Keeping team morale and motivation high is crucial for any company, especially in a remote work setting. To address this, we make a conscious effort to recognize and celebrate our team's achievements and milestones, whether it's through acknowledging individual accomplishments in team meetings or celebrating company-wide successes. Additionally, we regularly organize virtual events and activities to foster camaraderie and team bonding.

Barbecue is always a nice way to celebrate.

For example, a few months ago, we played an escape game on Gather, which allowed our team members to work together to solve puzzles while having fun. We also frequently host remote board game sessions using Board Game Arena, providing a relaxing and enjoyable way for our team to unwind and connect with each other. These virtual events not only help maintain team morale but also contribute to building strong relationships and a sense of unity within our remote team.

Adapting to Change and Embracing the Future

The world of work is constantly evolving, and we believe that adaptability is key to staying ahead. As we continue to grow and embrace new technologies, we remain committed to learning from our experiences and refining our remote-first approach. This includes staying open to feedback from our team members and continuously seeking ways to improve our processes and culture.

A Remote-First Success Story: Looking Forward

Our success as a remote-first company is rooted in our experiences with open-source collaboration and a commitment to asynchronous work. By prioritizing effective communication, team bonding, and a strong company culture, we have created an environment where our team members can thrive and work effectively, regardless of their physical location.

As remote work continues to gain popularity, we hope our story serves as an inspiring example of building and maintaining a fully remote company successfully.