Thomson Reuters recently spit out its Future of Professionals special report, a survey of more than 1,200 professionals working in the legal, tax & accounting, global trade, risk, and compliance fields who are employed at firms, corporate in-house departments, and government agencies based in North America, South America, and the United Kingdom. The report’s main focus is AI, specifically the impact of AI on the future of professionals and how these people hope AI can transform their work for the better. Work will look much different in 2028 if Thomson Reuters’ predictions come to pass.
Some key insights:
How professionals’ hopes for generative AI are centered around improvements in operational efficiencies that will provide greater productivity. They also envision that the freed-up time resulting from the removal of mundane work will make them available for higher-value tasks. We at Thomson Reuters believe this will largely be achieved over the next five years.
How true transformation will occur around talent. While many can see the positive impact AI will have on recruitment, training, career paths, and well-being, there is uncertainty. This unease showed up in the research findings as fears around job loss and, for some, the demise of their professions altogether. We at Thomson Reuters believe jobs will change and tasks will be automated, but AI will create greater capacity for professionals to provide even more value to customers and stakeholders.
How professionals acknowledge the transformational impact AI will have on their work over the next five years. Society and economies have been shaped by our ability to keep pace with innovation. This study shows professionals are ready to embrace change and harness new technology to enable productivity and efficiency, and offer a greater customer experience. At Thomson Reuters, we believe it is too early to fully understand the full scope of these changes and the subsequent impact, but we must partner across industries and create new applications of AI responsibly to achieve the most desirable outcomes.
Fabulous. We’re not here to talk about that though, we’re here to talk about the intersection of work and mental health and how professionals surveyed feel about work’s influence on their mental well-being. It is not nearly as bad as you might expect.
With maintaining a healthy work-life balance being cited as the second most important motivator for professionals, it is easy to connect the dots to understand how work impacts overall mental health and well-being, given that many professions in the legal and accounting industries are known for long hours and high stress. Interestingly, more than half (53%) of the professionals surveyed said that their work had a strongly or moderately positive impact on their mental health and well-being. And just under half of legal professionals at law firms and in the government sector agreed their work positively impacted their mental health and well-being.
You read that right. More than half (about 636 people) of all respondents said work has a positive impact on their mental health, 22 percent of tax and accounting professionals surveyed said strongly positive. 58 percent of tax and accounting people are in the “positive” range, beating out the law folks by nearly 10 percent. Legal professionals working at law firms also have a larger chunk in the moderately negative and strongly negative categories
When you get down into the weeds you see that men seem to feel better about work than women by a significant margin and that boomers unsurprisingly report higher positive effects than Gen X and millennials. I’d propose it’s possible that Gen X and especially millennials are more aware of mental health than boomers and therefore better able to identify ways in which work impacts it but who can say? On the flip side of that, only two percent of boomers report a strongly negative impact on their mental health compared to five percent of millennials. I’m intentionally ignoring Gen X’s eight percent as is tradition when it comes to their generation.
Said the report:
The positive nature of gaining mental health and well-being benefits from work suggests a good portion of professionals will be able to cope well with the disruption that AI inevitably will bring. Intentional focus by professionals on their mental health and well-being during this transition therefore will be very important to maintaining this positive state.
Directly related to mental health, respondents were asked for their opinion how AI will affect the hours they work in the next five years. Deeply rooted in reality, a good amount of them are tempering their expectations and still others think AI will somehow make hours worse.
Although, as stated above, some professionals can see potential for AI to improve mental health and well-being, it must be acknowledged that not all professionals agreed with this optimistic standpoint. Indeed, some professionals believe AI will have a negative impact on their work-life balance and mental well-being, in part because of skepticism as to whether the benefits of AI will actually materialize.
In fact, the collective opinion among survey participants is divided as to whether working hours will shorten or indeed increase. A lack of clarity on the impact of AI on working hours was the dominant view, although the proportion of professionals who expect AI to result in longer working hours was twice that of those who predicted shorter hours in the short term.
Bless those 13 percent of people who think they’ll be working fewer hours 18 months from now with the help of AI. We can only hope.
There’s a bunch more but it would have a negative effect on my mental health if I had to write it all up so find the other 34 pages of the report below.
Future of professionals report: How AI is the catalyst for transforming every aspect of work [Thomson Reuters]