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3 tips for incident communication when you’re suddenly remote

Strong communication can make or break any incident response effort.

With a lot of teams suddenly remote right now, we’ve fielded a lot of questions about how teams can adjust their incident management strategies. During an incident, tons of information gets passed around organically just from having the team all in the same room. People overhear what others are talking about, people see you sitting at your desk, people see when a whole group gathers around one person’s screen. You can even learn a lot just by seeing people face-to-face. Are they calm and collected, or panicked? Does their tone of voice inspire confidence or uncertainty?

All these small moments might seem trivial, but they create a high-fidelity environment full of helpful information for engineers and incident responders. Thankfully, with a few communication strategies, remote teams can create their own (even better) version of this environment.

At Atlassian, we’ve been practicing remote-first incident management for years, as we have teams distributed around the globe. Here are communication tips for remote incident management teams. Many of them are detailed in our own Incident Management Handbook, which we’ve made available to the public and free.

1. Over-communicate with internal stakeholders

Sending updates to internal stakeholders (think directors, VPs, heads of other departments) during an incident is extra important with distributed teams.

Be transparent and share real-time updates to deflect a bunch of unwanted interruptions. We use Statuspage to communicate these updates with internal and external stakeholders during incidents.

2. Set up dedicated channels for response team comms

Internal communication among the responders is also critical. When teams are remote, it’s easy for a bunch of disparate conversations to happen in different places. Once this happens, it can be nearly impossible to wrangle the information and conversations back into a cohesive thread.

One of the first things an incident manager should do is establish a canonical comms locations for the response team. At Atlassian, we use a dedicated Slack channel and Zoom room for each incident.

3. Use templates and prewritten updates

Mid-incident as the only engineer in your time zone isn’t the moment to flex your creative writing chops. To save time and avoid confusion, leverage templates and pre-written incident updates as much as possible - especially for communications going out to external stakeholders and customers.

Check out our incident template generator to automatically spin up your own incident announcements instantly.

For more tips like these, get your free copy of our incident management handbook.

For more in incident management on remote teams, check out our blog post: 5 tips for incident management when you’re suddenly remote.

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