Work is an important part of a person’s life. It can provide opportunities for personal growth, challenge and self-expression. It can also be the source of income for many people. Despite the benefits that work can bring, some people don’t enjoy it and might even feel like it has taken away their identity or snuffed out their passions.
The word work comes from a variety of words, including the verbs wirk and werkeln. In some cases, work is a noun that describes a certain job or activity; in other cases, it is a verb meaning to do something.
To do work, an object must be displaced or moved by some force. The direction and magnitude of the force determine whether or not work is done. When the displacement is zero, or perpendicular to the force, work is positive; when it is in the same direction as the force, work is negative.
One way to understand the relationship between force and displacement is to examine the motion of a body. If a force is applied to an object and it moves, work must be done on that object. This means that the amount of energy transferred to the object is proportional to the magnitude of the force.
Another way to explain the relationship between force and displacement is to consider the motion of a spring. If a force is applied to a spring, and it moves in a certain direction, the amount of energy that is transferred to the system is correspondingly proportional to the magnitude of the force.
If a spring has no contact with an object, and the object does not move, then no work is done on the system. The amount of energy transferred to the system is correspondingly proportional only to the magnitude of the force.
Some examples of things we think of as work in everyday circumstances that are not work in the scientific sense involve changing an object’s form, transferring energy to an object, or increasing its volume. For example, a waiter carrying a tray high over his head while strolling at a steady pace across a room is doing work; this is transferring energy to the tray by pushing it against the ground.
The term work in this context is sometimes confusing because it can refer to both positive and negative activities. For example, while compressing gas at a constant pressure is doing positive work (giving the briefcase energy), this same action does negative work if the gas’s volume is increased.
In the case of the briefcase, the work that is done is a function of both the weight and the distance that the object moves. In the drawing below, the briefcase does positive work because the force is in the same direction as the briefcase’s movement, and the amount of energy transferred to the briefcase is correspondingly proportional to the distance that the briefcase travels.
The term work can be used to describe any activity or process that carries out some task or function. For example, if you work at an office or school, you are doing some kind of work that helps to keep the organization running smoothly. You might be working on a report or document, writing an email, or helping a friend with a problem. The word work can also be used to describe a job or career, such as a doctor who works with the poor.