Work is energy transferred to or from an object when a force causes a displacement. In its simplest form, for a constant force aligned with the direction of motion, work equals the product of the force strength and the distance moved. Work is a vector quantity because it has both magnitude and direction; its SI unit is the Joule (J).
There are many examples of work in everyday circumstances, from a batsman hitting a ball to a cyclist paddling his bicycle, a man pushing a rigid brick wall, or a traveller moving her luggage from the airport. In physics, however, it’s important to distinguish between what we consider to be work and what actually does work in the scientific sense. For example, reading a book for school may be difficult and require much effort, but in the scientific sense, it does not do any work. This is because, unlike lifting a pencil up from a table, the change in position (i.e., displacement) is zero.
In the case of a falling pencil, on the other hand, gravity does do some work. This is because the change in position is a result of the force exerted on the pencil (i.e., weight) times the distance to the ground (i.e., displacement). In this case, the change in position is positive.
The question is, how do we expand the possibilities of work in our organizations? Rather than simply reskilling people to perform different tasks or allowing them the flexibility of working from home, we must cultivate a new vision of work that harnesses the intrinsic motivation of individuals and engages their curiosity. This means enabling them to pursue the domains where they feel most passionate and connected. In turn, this will enable them to create value for their customers and communities.
It will also empower them to act as their own owners, and not merely the servants of an organizational hierarchy. This will allow them to create the work that matters, and not only survive the whims of automation and market fluctuations.
While redefining work will require a significant shift in mindset, it is possible to begin the journey toward this future today. This can be done by identifying and solving problems in our existing processes and practices, and by encouraging the creation of innovative solutions to these unseen challenges. By doing so, we will transform work from a process-focused activity to an opportunity for individual and collective growth.
Do you have a story to share about how you are reinventing work? Let us know in the comments below. Then, be sure to share this article with your network. Together, we can make the world a better place to work. And remember to follow our LinkedIn page for all the latest news from our team. Thanks for reading! —Josh Libby is a senior writer at Deloitte Digital. He focuses on helping organizations drive innovation, transformation and change through creative, compelling storytelling. He works with clients to articulate their business goals, identify strategic opportunities and develop digital strategies that deliver on these priorities. He is passionate about helping people discover their strengths and the potential of technology to achieve those goals.