The Difference Between Work and Energy


Work is an activity in which one exerts physical or mental strength in order to perform a task. A person may work at a job, as a doctor or an actor does, or they may work on their own, as when a child works in a garden. A company might work on a new product, or a machine or piece of equipment might work to perform a certain function.

Work and energy

The terms work and energy are often used interchangeably in physics, but there is a significant difference between the two. For instance, when an object moves from one place to another, the work is the amount of force that is needed to move it.

When you have to move a box from the ground to a shelf that is one meter off the floor, you need a lot of force to get it there. You can use a dolly to move it, but the dolly does not decrease the force you need to exert; it just changes the size, distance or direction of that force.

A dolly can make moving boxes from the floor to the shelf much easier, but it does not save you from a lot of work. You still need to push the boxes and they must be moved in the same direction as you are pushing them.

You can tell whether or not the boxes have been moved by examining the angle between the force and the displacement of the boxes. When the displacement and the force are in the same direction, 0 degrees or 90 degrees, it is called positive work. When the force is in an opposite direction, it is called negative work.

There is a huge opportunity for companies to redefine work, but it requires cultivating a different set of capabilities. Instead of simply reskilling workers to do a different type of routine task or using new technology to complete the same tasks, redefining work requires cultivating curiosity, imagination, creativity, intuition, empathy and social intelligence. It also requires redefining how work gets done and when it is done, as well as what skills are necessary for different kinds of work.