Burnout Is Pushing Workers to Use AI—Even if Their Boss Doesn’t Know

Burnout Is Pushing Workers to Use AI—Even if Their Boss Doesn’t Know

White-collar workers are so overwhelmed with emails, web chats, and meetings that they are using AI tools to get their jobs done—even if their companies haven’t trained them to do so, according to a work trends index published Wednesday by Microsoft and LinkedIn.

Seventy-five percent of people in desk jobs are already using AI at work, and the amount of people using AI has nearly doubled over the past six months, the report found. The vast majority of workers using AI—regardless of whether they are baby boomers or Gen Z—are “bringing their own AI tools” rather than waiting for their companies to guide them.

“People are overwhelmed with digital debt and under duress at work,” Colette Stallbaumer, general manager of Microsoft’s chatbot Copilot and cofounder of Workload, said in a video announcing the report’s results. “And they are turning to AI for relief.” Microsoft (which also owns LinkedIn) stands to win from the adoption of AI, and is already cashing in on its generative AI tools.

The new report is built on a survey of 31,000 people who work desk jobs across 31 countries, labor and hiring trends found in LinkedIn data, data from Microsoft 365, and research from Fortune 500 companies. It’s a look at how generative AI has affected the workplace since tools like ChatGPT became available in late 2022. While the rapid adoption of AI struck fears that it would replace jobs, the report paints a different picture: of overburdened workers seeking their own solutions, and of managers eager to hire people who have skills utilizing AI—even as companies themselves are lagging in training workers how to use it.

The report offers a bleak look at worker overload: Nearly 70 percent of people surveyed said they struggle with the pace and volume of their work, and nearly half feel burned out. Those using Microsoft 365 spend the majority of their workday communicating with other people in their company, and less time working in Word and PowerPoint—a larger problem that some AI tools seek to solve. The report also found that 46 percent of people want to quit their jobs this year. Conversely, they may need AI skills to get hired elsewhere.

“It’s a hot skill set,” says Julie Schweber, senior HR knowledge adviser with the Society for Human Resource Management, who notes that some hiring managers are giving a leg up to job seekers with AI experience and skills. “We all know it’s coming. It’s going to impact everything in the workplace.”

While the report shows AI use is picking up rapidly among office workers, its wider adoption may be slower. A Pew survey earlier this year found that just 20 percent of US adults have used ChatGPT for work, although that number had jumped from 12 percent of people in mid-2023.

Alongside the report, Microsoft also announced advances to its Copilot tool, including an autocomplete function that is meant to help people prompt the chatbot to receive better output. It also has a rewrite feature that will add context to simple prompts, and a “catch up” chat interface, which sends personalized reminders, like a notification of an upcoming meeting along with information people can use to prepare.

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