The outbreak of the pandemic has transformed life for workers and businesses across the world, and the topics of remote teams and effective HR management have never been more important. As working from home becomes the new normal, ProfileTree CEO Ciaran Connolly sits down with Crystel Robbins Rynne, Head of Product and Marketing at HRLocker to discuss how businesses can adapt to this strange new world. Watch the full video in our video above and don’t forget to like, subscribe and share!

As we kick off discussion, Crystel takes us on a brief walkthrough of her own business journey, and how she entered the highly specialised field of human resources. Before she shares this with us, she highlights the location of HRLocker – one that is truly unconventional for a modern tech company.

HRLocker is based in the picturesque town of Lahinch on the northwest coast of Co. Clare. One of the most beautiful locations on the island, Crystel highlights that the choice of location was purely based on the lifestyle it allowed, as opposed to its suitability for a software company. A wise choice? We think so!

Remote teams and hr management with crystel robbins rynne

Remote from Day One

With the company from its earliest days 13 years ago, Crystel has watched HRLocker grow from the ground up, working her way up the business to her current position as Head of Product and Marketing. She outlines that from day one, HRLocker has been a remote working company, with 18 members of staff working within the company and a network of freelancers throughout the island of Ireland. Her present role at HRLocker involves bridging the gap between development and marketing teams, “trying to make sure that they are speaking the same language”, she explains.

We already know they have an awesome location. But what does HRLocker actually do? Crystel describes the product as a Cloud-based people management & HR platform, specifically targeted towards tech companies, professional services, construction firms and non-for-profit and charitable organisations. The product was borne out of the company’s understanding that in many cases, small and medium sized businesses could rarely afford to purchase effective HR software.

Remote Teams and HR Management

After years of development and continued growth, HRLocker now serves as an affordable product that fully automates the people management process, including timesheets, holidays, absences, training sessions and more.

Remote working is one of the core areas of strengths for HRLocker. Crystel highlights that this has certainly been the case over recent weeks, with workplaces around the world thrown into remote working patterns at short notice. “We’ve always worked under these patterns, and over the past number of weeks we have been able to quickly show them how to adapt their HR processes to work with remote teams.”

For HR Professionals, Built by HR Professionals

Ultimately, HRLocker is HR software that has been built by HR professionals. “A lot of the software built at the moment would be heavily focussed on compliance and various ‘tick the box’; exercises. What we wanted to do was create software that actually helps people in their day to day lives, and take compliance as a given,” she explains. 

According to Crystel, part of the success behind HRLocker can be attributed to their own background as a HR consultancy. “We understand the issues companies are facing day-to-day. The landscape of work is changing, and your software must adjust to these different types of work patterns. That’s what we’ve ultimately built our product around,” she adds.

The Head of Product and Marketing argues that in many cases, businesses were totally unfamiliar, and even uncomfortable with the idea of remote working. However, with the outbreak of the virus these businesses have been given no choice but to adapt, and this ultimately presents a sink or swim exercise.

“Personally, I’ve never enjoyed working from home. I love being in an office environment – but you do just have to adapt. I think a lot of businesses have been pleasantly surprised at how well they have actually adapted to the current situation,” she shares. 

Adapt to Survive

Whilst remote working has been a popular practice around the world for several years, the practice of dual working isn’t quite as well known. But what is dual working, and how does it actually work? “At HRLocker, we’ve been living and breathing remote working from day one. However, that doesn’t mean that we are remote 100% of the time, and sometimes we may have staff who work remotely for three days of the week, and would maybe come into the office twice a week,” explains Crystel.

“I’ve three small kids at home. Being able to work from home 2-3 days a week has allowed me to relax a lot more. I think it will be really hard for people to go back to work five days a week.”

According to Crystel, the success of a company’s remote working environment depends on the creation of necessary infrastructure: “Realistically, you have to fully embrace remote working if it is going to work. Companies have seen that it works if you actually adapt and bring the right structures and processes into place. Companies see that they get a lot of productivity out of people when they are allowed that proper home-life balance.”

“For me personally, my biggest mistake with remote working was spending my entire day working – I felt that I didn’t leave my laptop from morning till evening. You just have to treat it like you’re going into the office. It’s a frame of mind, and for the most part, I think people like it!”

*Those wishing to learn more about HRLocker and how it can facilitate remote working teams can visit the official website, which includes plenty of useful information and templates for migrating your team to home working. Check out the free trial!*

Our remote interview with Crystel Robbins Rynne joins our award-winning Business Leader series, featuring discussions and industry insights from some of Ireland’s most exciting entrepreneurs. Check out the full playlist for more, or to find out how video marketing can transform your online business, get in touch!

Specific Challenges for HR in Remote Teams:

Building Company Culture:


  • Lack of face-to-face interaction: Fostering a sense of connection and belonging can be difficult without casual in-person interactions.
  • Isolation and disengagement: Remote employees may feel disconnected from colleagues and the company’s mission, leading to decreased morale and motivation.
  • Misunderstanding company values: Communicating and embedding company values can be challenging without consistent, in-person reinforcement.


  • Implement virtual team-building activities: Regular online games, social events, or collaborative projects can build rapport and camaraderie.
  • Utilize communication tools effectively: Encourage video calls, chats, and virtual watercooler conversations for informal interactions.
  • Create a strong online presence: Share company news, employee stories, and celebrations through a centralized platform.
  • Invest in virtual recognition programs: Celebrate achievements and milestones publicly to boost morale and appreciation.
  • Encourage cross-team collaboration: Facilitate projects and interactions between different departments to foster connections and understanding.

Talent Acquisition and Retention:


  • Attracting top talent in a global pool: Competing with local companies for talent and offering competitive remote-specific benefits can be challenging.
  • Managing distributed talent: Onboarding, training, and performance management across different time zones and cultures requires adaptation.
  • Unique compensation and benefits needs: Remote employees may have different needs regarding equipment, stipends, and flexibility compared to office-based staff.


  • Highlight the benefits of remote work: Advertise flexibility, work-life balance, and global opportunities to attract talent.
  • Use targeted recruitment platforms: Utilize online job boards and communities focusing on remote positions.
  • Develop a robust virtual onboarding process: Provide clear communication, resources, and support to integrate new hires smoothly.
  • Offer location-agnostic compensation and benefits: Consider stipends for home office equipment, flexible benefits packages, and global health insurance options.
  • Invest in cross-cultural training: Equip managers and teams with skills for effective communication and collaboration across diverse backgrounds.

Maintaining Employee Morale and Well-being:


  • Isolation and burnout: Working remotely can lead to loneliness, lack of motivation, and difficulty disconnecting from work.
  • Blurred work-life boundaries: Always being available online can lead to overwork and stress.
  • Mental health concerns: Lack of social interaction and job insecurity can negatively impact mental health, especially for isolated employees.


  • Promote healthy work-life balance: Encourage employees to set boundaries, take breaks, and disconnect after work hours.
  • Offer mental health resources: Provide access to employee assistance programs, online therapy services, and wellness initiatives.
  • Foster open communication: Encourage employees to discuss their challenges and concerns with managers and peers.
  • Create a flexible work environment: Allow employees to adjust their schedules and work hours to suit their needs.
  • Organize virtual social events and activities: Encourage informal interactions and team bonding outside of work.

Best Practices for Onboarding Remote Employees:

Onboarding can make or break a new employee’s experience, and in the remote world, it’s even more crucial to get it right. Here are some best practices to ensure a smooth transition and set your remote hires up for success:

Pre-boarding Process:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Before day one, share company policies, work culture expectations, and performance goals. This helps new hires feel prepared and confident.
  • Provide Essential Resources: Send pre-boarding documents, login credentials, and access to project management tools in advance. This allows them to hit the ground running on day one.
  • Virtual Introductions: Introduce the new hire to team members via video calls or a welcome message before they start. This breaks the ice and fosters early connections.

First Day/Week Experience:

  • Technology Onboarding: Ensure all necessary software and hardware are set up and working before the first day. Offer technical support and troubleshooting assistance.
  • Regular Check-ins: Schedule frequent video calls with the manager and team members in the first week. This provides support, addresses questions, and builds rapport.
  • Project Integration: Assign initial tasks and projects that are manageable but allow the new hire to contribute quickly. This boosts confidence and engagement.

Ongoing Support and Mentorship:

  • Open Communication Channels: Create dedicated channels on chat platforms for questions, feedback, and informal interactions. This fosters a collaborative and supportive environment.
  • Professional Development: Offer online learning resources, training programs, and opportunities for mentorship. This helps new hires grow their skills and knowledge.
  • Build Trust and Rapport: Encourage regular one-on-one meetings with the manager to discuss progress, goals, and any challenges. This builds trust and helps identify potential issues early on.

Bonus Tips:

  • Send a Welcome Package: A small welcome package with company swag or branded goodies can add a personal touch and make the new hire feel valued.
  • Organize Virtual Coffee Chats: Facilitate informal social interactions between the new hire and team members to help them build relationships.
  • Gather Feedback: Regularly ask for feedback on the onboarding process to identify areas for improvement and ensure a positive experience for future hires.

Communication and Collaboration Tools for Remote Teams:

A well-equipped toolbox of communication and collaboration tools is crucial for remote teams to thrive. Here’s a deeper dive into the categories you mentioned:

Project Management Platforms:

  • Asana: Great for task management and workflow visualization. Offers clear deadlines, priority levels, and project tracking features. Integrates with various tools like Slack and Google Drive.
  • Trello: Simple and visual. Uses boards and cards to manage tasks, assign team members, and track progress. Ideal for agile teams and quick prioritization.
  • Jira: Powerful for complex projects and software development teams. Offers advanced features like bug tracking, sprint planning, and kanban boards. Requires steeper learning curve.

Video Conferencing and Chat Software:

  • Zoom: Popular for high-quality video meetings, screen sharing, and breakout rooms. Offers recording and live transcription features. Great for team meetings, presentations, and client calls.
  • Google Meet: Simple and integrated with Google Workspace. Offers free video calls for up to 100 participants. Ideal for quick calls and team huddles.
  • Slack: Collaborative communication platform with channels, direct messaging, and file sharing. Integrates with many other tools and offers bots for productivity and automation. Perfect for everyday team communication and information sharing.

File Sharing and Document Collaboration Tools:

  • Google Drive: Cloud storage and document collaboration platform. Real-time editing, version control, and access control features. Integrates seamlessly with other Google tools. Ideal for shared documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
  • Dropbox: Secure file sharing and storage with advanced syncing features. Offers team folders, access control, and file requests. Good for larger files and external collaborations.
  • Microsoft Teams: Hub for communication, collaboration, and file sharing within the Microsoft ecosystem. Offers video conferencing, chat, shared calendars, and document co-authoring. Integrates with other Microsoft apps. Good for organizations already using Microsoft tools.

Time Tracking and Productivity Apps:

  • Clockify: Simple and free time tracking tool. Records time spent on tasks and projects. Offers reports and team dashboards. Perfect for freelancers and individual productivity.
  • Harvest: Robust time tracking and invoicing platform. Track time, expenses, and projects. Create professional invoices and reports. Ideal for teams and project-based work.
  • Focus Keeper: Pomodoro timer app that uses timed intervals and breaks to boost focus and productivity. Helps combat distractions and maintain efficient work schedules. Great for individual focus and self-management.

Choosing the Right Tools:

The best tools for your team depend on your specific needs, work style, and budget. Consider factors like team size, project complexity, communication preferences, and budget constraints. Don’t hesitate to try out different options and find the right combination that maximizes your team’s effectiveness and collaboration.

Additional Tips:

  • Invest in training: Make sure your team is familiar with the chosen tools and can utilize them effectively.
  • Promote cross-tool integration: Look for tools that integrate seamlessly with each other to create a smooth workflow.
  • Establish communication guidelines: Set clear expectations around communication channels, response times, and availability.
  • Embrace asynchronous communication: Encourage the use of tools and workflows that allow team members to work at their own pace and in different time zones.

Measuring Success: Metrics and Monitoring for Remote Teams

Evaluating performance is crucial for any team, but for remote teams, reliable metrics and effective tracking methodologies are even more vital. Here’s a deeper look at your suggestions:

Setting Clear Goals and Expectations:

  • SMART Goals: Implement the SMART framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) to define individual and team goals. This ensures clarity, focus, and a tangible path to success.
  • Individual Objectives: Align individual goals with team objectives, ensuring everyone contributes to the overall strategy. Regular one-on-ones with managers help tailor goals and provide support.
  • Performance Reviews: Conduct regular performance reviews, either quarterly or bi-annually, to track progress, provide feedback, and adjust goals as needed.

Tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

  • Productivity Metrics: Choose relevant metrics like output volume, task completion rates, average turnaround time, or project delivery timelines. These give insights into individual and team efficiency.
  • Project Completion Rates: Monitor the percentage of projects completed on time and within budget. This reflects team success in managing priorities and resources.
  • Customer Satisfaction Scores: Use surveys, feedback platforms, or Net Promoter Score (NPS) to gauge customer satisfaction with remote team performance. This provides valuable external validation.

Utilizing Technology and Data for Insights:

  • Performance Dashboards: Implement centralized dashboards with visual representations of key metrics. This allows everyone to track progress, identify trends, and stay informed.
  • Employee Feedback Surveys: Conduct regular surveys to gather feedback on workload, remote work experience, and potential challenges. This provides valuable insights for improvement.
  • Engagement Analytics: Utilize tools to track team communication, meeting attendance, and virtual collaboration patterns. This can reveal potential engagement issues and opportunities for improvement.

Additional Tips:

  • Focus on Outcomes, Not Micromanagement: Avoid fixating on metrics like time spent online or specific activities. Emphasize results and deliverables while allowing flexibility in work styles.
  • Regular Communication and Feedback: Share performance data with your team, discuss insights openly, and encourage feedback on metrics and measurement methods.
  • Adjust Measures Based on Context: Different roles and projects may require unique metrics. Tailor your approach based on specific needs and responsibilities.
  • Emphasize Growth and Development: Use performance data not just for evaluation but also to identify areas for development and skills improvement. Offer training and resources to help team members excel.

The way we work is experiencing a revolution, and remote work is at the forefront. Here’s a deeper dive into your highlighted trends, exploring what they mean for the future of work and HR:

1. Rise of Asynchronous Work:

  • Importance of Clear Communication: With team members potentially working across different time zones and schedules, asynchronous communication becomes key. This means relying on tools like collaborative documents, detailed written instructions, and asynchronous video messages to ensure everyone is informed and aligned.
  • Setting Boundaries: Asynchronous work requires clear boundaries between work and personal time. Encourage employees to set “quiet hours” and utilize flexible work schedules to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Promoting Flexibility: Embracing asynchronous work allows for personalized work styles and accommodates diverse needs. Trust your employees to manage their time effectively and focus on results rather than rigid schedules.

2. Remote Employee Experience (REX):

  • Prioritizing Employee Well-being: Remote work can lead to isolation and mental health challenges. HR must focus on initiatives that address loneliness, promote physical and mental well-being, and create a sense of belonging. This can include virtual social events, wellness programs, and access to mental health resources.
  • Employee Satisfaction Surveys: Regularly measure REX through surveys and feedback mechanisms. Understand employee concerns, address challenges promptly, and adapt your strategies based on data-driven insights.
  • Building Trust and Rapport: In-person interactions may be limited, but building trust and rapport with remote employees is crucial. Utilize regular one-on-one meetings, virtual team-building activities, and open communication channels to foster strong relationships.

3. Global Workforce and Cultural Diversity:

  • Effective Communication Strategies: Bridge cultural gaps by encouraging clear and concise communication, actively listening to diverse perspectives, and practicing cultural sensitivity. Utilize training programs on cultural awareness and communication best practices.
  • Collaborative Tools and Platforms: Choose technology that facilitates intercultural collaboration, like translation tools, real-time language interpretation services, and platforms that support diverse time zones and work styles.
  • Promoting Inclusiveness and Diversity: Foster a culture of inclusivity by recognizing and celebrating cultural differences. Encourage diverse representation in leadership, create equal opportunities for career growth, and address unconscious biases in all HR processes.

Additional Tips:

  • Embrace continuous learning: Stay updated on evolving trends in remote work and HR. Invest in training for managers and HR professionals to equip them with the skills necessary to navigate the changing landscape.
  • Leverage technology: Utilize advancements in automation, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality to improve remote work experiences, productivity, and collaboration.
  • Focus on human connection: Despite the digital shift, remember that remote work is still about people. Create opportunities for virtual and in-person connections, build a strong company culture, and prioritize employee well-being to build a thriving remote workforce.

“Remote Teams and HR Management” FAQ:

  • What are the biggest challenges for HR when managing remote teams? Building company culture, attracting and retaining talent, and maintaining employee morale and well-being are some of the key challenges.
  • How can I improve communication and collaboration in my remote team? Utilize communication tools like Slack and Zoom, implement project management platforms, and encourage asynchronous communication through clear documentation and concise messaging.
  • What are some best practices for onboarding remote employees? Set clear expectations before day one, provide essential resources, introduce them to the team virtually, and offer ongoing support and mentorship.
  • How can I measure the performance of my remote team? Utilize SMART goals, track key performance indicators (KPIs) like project completion rates and client satisfaction, and leverage technology for performance dashboards and employee feedback surveys.
  • What are some future trends in remote work that HR should be aware of? The rise of asynchronous work, prioritizing remote employee experience (REX), and navigating a global workforce with diverse cultures are some key trends to consider.


The rise of remote work presents exciting opportunities but also unique challenges for HR professionals. By implementing effective strategies for building company culture, fostering communication and collaboration, prioritising employee well-being, and adapting to emerging trends, HR software help can play a critical role in leading and empowering remote teams to achieve success.

Embrace the flexibility and dynamism of remote work, invest in your people, and create a thriving environment where everyone, regardless of location, feels connected, valued, and empowered to contribute their best.

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