Redefining Work

In physics, work is the amount of energy transferred from one object to another by an external force. It may be positive, negative, or zero, depending on the relative direction of the displacement vector and the component of the force acting along it. For example, when a force is exerted on a moving object to increase its speed, the result is positive work. In contrast, if a force is applied to an object that is stationary or slowing down, the result is negative work.

The amount of work done is expressed in units called joules (J), the same unit used for energy. In SI units, the joule is defined as the product of force times distance. For example, it takes the same amount of work to lift a 100 lb object one foot as it does to lift it two feet. The direction of the force is also important; if the direction is perpendicular to the displacement vector, the work done is zero. However, if the force is pointing away from the displacement vector, then it does negative work.

For an object to gain energy, it must be displaced. The formula for work states that force times displacement equals energy. This is why it is crucial that the direction of the displacement vector be compared to the direction of the force. The direction of the displacement vector should be parallel to or opposite to the force if the work done is positive. Otherwise, it is negative work.

Unlike the concept of effort in everyday life, work is never something an object has; it is always something that someone else does to or for an object. It changes the mechanical and internal energy possessed by an object by adding it to it, or subtracting it from another. For example, throwing a ball causes it to move through space and gain kinetic energy as it goes.

Redefining Work

It is the responsibility of organizations to provide workers with a meaningful job that makes work fun again. This is accomplished by encouraging curiosity and connecting individuals to domains where they can make a difference. The way to do this is not by reskilling employees to perform different types of routine tasks or training them in new technologies, but by redefining the work itself.

The key is to provide a purposeful role that allows individuals to be responsible, intelligent, cooperative and kind (RICK). Individuals who engage in this type of work are intrinsically motivated and can work efficiently with minimal supervision. This allows them to devote more time to their personal lives and networks, which in turn leads to more fulfillment at work. This virtuous cycle benefits all stakeholders, including customers, companies and the individual employees themselves. However, many employees still see their jobs as a paycheck — a means to an end rather than a true career with meaning and impact. The goal of redefining work should be to cultivate this questing and connecting mindset so that more people can be a part of the solution.