Open-sourcing the Nylas Employee Handbook

The Nylas Team
4 min readNov 6, 2017


It’s been an exciting year for Nylas; to date, we have synced more than 100 terabytes of data from more than 15 billion emails, and we process more than 50 million API requests per day. In the past year alone, we’ve grown the team by 25%, maintaining a 50/50 split in identified gender (including on engineering), representing a mix of ethnicities and nationalities — and we’re hiring for more full-time roles and internships as we speak. We recently underwent diversity and inclusion training, and we’re actively working to diversify our team by every measure.

With the training fresh in our minds, we decided to formalize our values and policies so that they scale as the company scales. We were inspired by companies like Clef and Basecamp who have open-sourced their work policies — including everything from parental leave to unique company vocabulary to 401(k) policies — and we’ve done the same. We started with a mission statement.

At Nylas, our mission is to build the kind of organization that reflects the world in which we want to live.

What does that mean? We looked at our values, and in an effort to excel at a few rather than attempt too many, we selected seven (in no particular order):

  • Focus on Customers
  • Empowerment and Trust
  • Transparency and Communication
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Focus (Minimize Distractions)
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Design

From these seven values, we put together policies (ranging from caretaker leave to education benefits and remote work) that we hope reflect our mission well. These policies went into our employee handbook, which we’ve open-sourced on Github. Some highlights broken out by section:

️☕️ Remote work: We’re based out of San Francisco, but we’re growing our East Coast roots with two employees working remotely full-time, one in New York City and one in Boston. To make the most out of remote work, we’ve created a fairly comprehensive remote work policy that works for us. TL;DR: time zones and communication are important.

🗣 Terminology:

  1. SQL: Depending on the context, this could mean two very different things. In the sales context, an SQL is a sales qualified lead. In an engineering context, SQL is a the query language for our MySQL databases.
  2. Sprint: At Nylas, our sprints are only one week long — we’ve found that shorter sprints allow us to evaluate priorities more often, and we haven’t found that they are too short.
  3. PTO: Paid time off. Speaking of…

🏖 PTO: At Nylas, we understand the benefits of unplugging — not just for your personal health, but for your work too. We observe a responsible vacation policy, and mandate a 10-business-day vacation every year once you’ve been with Nylas for more than 6 months. The general rule of thumb is that for each day you request off, you should notify your manager at least 1 week in advance (so for a 5 day vacation, your manager should be notified 5 weeks in advance).

❤️ Caretaker leave policy: Nylas offers a 100% paid caretaker/parental leave policy for up to 16 weeks per year. Leave may be taken for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child, caring for an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child or parent with a serious health condition, the serious health condition of the employee. In particular, we offer 16 weeks of paid leave for both mothers and fathers. We know this is longer than most other companies at our stage, but we chose this because we believe 16 weeks should be a minimum, and want to exemplify the world we’d like to live in.

📚 Employee education benefit program: Learning and facilitating career growth is important to us because it empowers every employee to learn new skills beyond their day-to-day projects. Each Nylonaut (our term for Nylas team members) is given a $1,000 professional development stipend to be used annually on classes, conferences, travel, and books to benefit their career growth while at Nylas. We also host a monthly book club where each team votes on a book to read together — everything from “The Effective Engineer” to “Difficult Conversations” and “The Manager’s Path.” By stepping outside of our day-to-day responsibilities, we’re able to make large-scale changes in the way Nylas works.

True to one of our values — empowerment — our goal with open-sourcing our handbook is to inspire others to do the same so we can learn from each other and create more inclusive, fair work policies. Our handbook is a work in progress; feel free to fork, adapt, and share yours as well! If you see a place you think we could improve, submit a pull request — the handbook reflects our best attempt to put into place policies that match our values, but your suggestions would be most welcome.

Our place of work should better reflect the world in which we want to live — and we’re working hard towards that goal every day. 🌎

Originally published at



The Nylas Team

Email, calendar and contacts APIs that power billions of messages across thousands of software applications.