In physics, work is a transfer of energy. It is defined as the product of the force exerted on an object times the displacement (or distance travelled by the object). When the forces and displacements are in the same direction, such as when a batsman hits a ball or a car moves along the road under gravity, the work done is positive. However, when the force is opposite to the displacement — such as when friction and air drag on a moving car cause its energy to decrease — the work done is negative. The SI unit for work is the joule.
People can do a lot of different types of work, from answering phones to baking bread. But there’s one thing they all have in common: They require effort to get the job done. In fact, that’s probably the reason why you feel tired after a day at work: You’ve worked hard, and your body has expended energy to get the job done.
Despite the fact that work can be very demanding on our bodies, we can’t expect to be impervious to life’s little setbacks. The unexpected illness, relationship conflict, or bad weather can all interfere with our ability to do good work. But that doesn’t mean we should be discouraged and give up on our jobs altogether.
The key to a happy and fulfilling career is finding the right balance between work and life. And while the work-life balance is not always a smooth path, there are some steps we can take to achieve it.
For starters, we can focus on the kinds of work that we enjoy. While it’s not possible to eliminate all the unavoidable stressors in our lives, we can choose the work we do and where we do it. Choosing work that we find interesting, challenging, and meaningful is the best way to ensure a satisfying and balanced career.
When we are engaged in our work, we create value for ourselves and the company, and we feel that our contribution matters. But what if we were to rethink our notion of what “work” means? Instead of simply reskilling employees to complete routine tasks or using new technologies that automate them, we could redefine work as the imaginative identification and solution of unseen problems and opportunities.
We all have examples of this in our daily lives: a traveller pushing luggage at the airport, a coolie transporting baggage, or a cobbler polishing shoes. These situations may not be as exciting as the batsman hitting a ball or a car driving on a road, but they are just as important for our well-being. And they are just as effective in improving our quality of life. In the end, redefining work is about more than just creating a better balance between work and life. It’s about ensuring that we have the opportunity to make a difference in the world.