What Is Work?

In physics, work is the amount of energy a force transfers to or from an object as it causes a displacement. It is a scalar quantity and the product of force magnitude and displacement direction, and is measured in SI units (joule). It is also sometimes expressed in non-SI units such as newton-metre, erg, watt hour, kilowatt hours, and horsepower-hour. The SI unit of work is the joule, named after 19th-century English physicist James Prescott Joule.

The work done by a moving force on an object is called its mechanical energy, and it can be positive or negative. It may also be zero, as when the direction of displacement is perpendicular to the force (like a ball falling to the ground under the force of gravity). In this case, the energy transferred to the ball is zero.

Examples of work can be found all around us – a horse pulling a plow through a field, a person pushing a shopping cart down the aisle of a grocery store, a freshman lifting a bookbag over her head to read in class, or an Olympian launching the shot-put. In fact, many people perform a great deal of work without even realizing it – for example, when a child pushes a toy car down the sidewalk, or an employee works on a project at home with a coworker on the other side of the world via video conference.

As more companies embrace remote work, it’s important to understand the unique challenges and opportunities that arise from this trend. For one, companies that offer flexible working options have a competitive advantage in hiring top talent, as they can attract and retain employees by eliminating long commutes, unnecessary meetings, and workplace distractions. In addition, the diversity of employees that can be found in a workforce that is largely remote provides valuable market insights that would otherwise be unavailable.

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These online examples are from a variety from various online sources and should not be considered a representation of the views of the Merriam-Webster dictionary editors or its licensors.