What Is Work?

Work is an activity in which we exert physical or mental effort to earn money or achieve something. It is often used in a more general sense to refer to a person’s daily activities such as a student studying for upcoming exams, a musician practicing his instrument, an office worker writing a report, a construction worker building a bridge, or a sportsman training for the next competition.

A broader view of work is the activity in which we create value to our internal and external customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. This can be accomplished through a number of processes including problem identification and solution, ideation, and implementation.

The value created by a worker in this context is based on their intrinsic motivation to seek out new challenges and connections that make a difference in the world. The key to redefining work is cultivating this passion within employees. This can be done by redefining work in terms of the creative, imaginative identification and solution of unseen opportunities.

When an object is moved by a force, the work done on the object can be determined by looking at three key ingredients – the direction of the force, the direction of the displacement and the cause of the displacement. The first condition is the easiest to satisfy – for an object to be considered to have done work, it must move due to the force. This movement is then defined by the second condition – the direction of the displacement must match that of the force. This can be easily demonstrated by looking at the following pictures and clicking if the object is doing work or not.

In physics, work is defined as the product of a constant force and its displacement. It is also referred to as the dot product in vector mathematics. The SI unit of work is the joule (J), named after 19th century English physicist James Prescott Joule. It is equal to the energy expended when a force of one newton causes an object to be moved a distance of one meter. Other non-SI units of work include the newton-metre, erg, foot-poundal, watt hour, and kilowatt-hour.

Many people think that the activities they engage in in their day-to-day lives are work, but in the scientific sense this is not always true. For example, when you hold a heavy briefcase you might feel like you are working hard to hold it up, but this is not the case because the force is constant and the displacement is zero. This is because the power input is a scalar quantity and not a vector. However, if the force is variable and the trajectory of the displacement varies with time, then the power input can be characterized as a vector integral over the path of the trajectory. This definition is consistent with the proper definition of work and avoids the confusion caused by treating a variable force as though it has no direction.