Confessions   //   December 15, 2022

‘I’m overwhelmed and scattered:’ Confessions of a publishing account manager on clients’ virtual communication methods

When the pandemic was at its height, the proliferation of workplace communication apps became invaluable in improving remote working and keeping business on track. But what started as a much-needed workplace tech development, is now causing some unintended consequences which are affecting productivity.

Today, we’re swimming in different work platforms and apps and for people who have to juggle numerous clients, each of which uses different tech, hopping between communication tools of all the different platforms, with very little – if any – product training is starting to become a nightmare. For our latest installment of Confessions, where we trade anonymity for candor, an account manager at a major publisher shared why this is leading to higher anxiety and affecting productivity.

This interview has been edited for clarity and flow.

How many different platforms are you using to meet clients’ needs?

On a day-to-day basis, I use four different apps for communication, including Slack, Basis, Chime and Google Chat. Then I also use Microsoft Teams and Zoom. For projects, I’ve used Google Drive and Sharepoint with Excel. There was no onboarding but it takes two to three weeks to really be comfortable with a new platform. It was like “this is what we’re using, use it.” Our clients have the expectation that we use their preferred platform or app for messaging and project management. 

Has it affected your productivity or had other negative impacts?

Yes. I find myself not having time to take a full lunch break during the day or even working longer hours because I had to spend time earlier in the day navigating a certain platform. And I know it’s not just me either. My coworker was late to a meeting because they were having a hard time accessing Microsoft Teams. We’ve all experienced remote work kinks like that, but throw in Google Meet, Amazon Chime, and others, then more and more tech issues pop up. 

I’ve also missed emails from one account [client] who uses Basis because of how it comes into my inbox and doesn’t stay in the same thread. That’s a common complaint from coworkers. They miss action items or are late to calls because of unfamiliarity with the programs. I’ve spent 20 minutes just struggling to add someone on the email chain from my team and then eventually had to send a note to someone on the external team to figure it out. All they did was send back a how-to sheet and I didn’t even have access to it on my end so they eventually did it for me. It ended up being an hour-long process whereas on email it takes two seconds.

It’s most likely an issue for any company that works with other companies. How are we supposed to keep our heads on straight when we are flipping back and forth so much?

That must be frustrating?

It makes me irritated. That’s how I feel. I’m overwhelmed and scattered that I can’t organize my work in one place or on one consistent platform. I need to be quick and pivot for each platform, it’s exhausting. It makes you feel stretched thin when you need to be in so many places at once, between remembering all of your logins and troubleshooting. And it’s an overall lack of support.

Other platforms like Slack are easier to use because I’m on it anyway. But there’s another issue there. It’s going from using Slack as an instant message where we have acronyms and are more casual to having to write formal messages [to clients]. So you’re on the app chatting with a coworker and have to switch something in your brain to send an email-like message in Slack, which just isn’t how the general population uses Slack. It takes me a lot longer and I find myself overthinking my message because I’m wondering if it’s too relaxed or if it’s okay.

And if a platform is down, it’s a question of how do you communicate with the client. My tech team isn’t going to help me figure out Basis because it’s not their product.

Did your employer communicate what to expect when it comes to this?

I genuinely don’t think leadership is aware it’s such an issue. I wish my company asked these questions, asked how I’m communicating with clients and if it’s stressful, and if they can help. Does my company even have a sense of how many platforms clients expect us to use?

But, at the same time, I don’t really think it’s an issue that my publisher needs to solve. I think the best resolution is that if companies expect other companies to interact using their programs, they need to offer training or introductions. I wish the clients recognized we’re going out of our way to use something that is not company-provided. Or, I wish our company had a stronger policy that we maintain all conversations through one of the platforms. 

I also think it’s just one of those things that’s come out of Covid. Everyone’s had to turn towards virtual so there is this surplus of platforms out there. At the end of the day, whether or not training is offered, we need to maintain the relationships with clients. It’s a “you gotta do what you gotta do” kind of thing. It’s about balance and figuring it out.