What Is Work?


When someone says, “I’ve got a lot of work to do,” they are referring to their job or the tasks associated with it. Likewise, you can also use the word work to describe any type of effort you are making in order to achieve something. A person who wants to become an Olympic ice skater, for example, will need to put in lots of work.

One definition of work is simply “the transfer of energy from one place to another.” This can be accomplished by moving a body as a whole from one place to another, but it can also be done by changing the size or direction of a force, compressing a gas, or even causing invisible motions within a system.

Work is equal to the product of a force times a distance. For example, if you push a heavy box from one end of the room to the other, the amount of work required is the force exerted on the box multiplied by the distance the box moves. If you use a dolly to move the box, the amount of work required is less because it requires less force. A machine can make work easier, but it cannot decrease the total amount of work performed.

In physics, work can also be defined as the integral of a force over the displacement of the point where the force is applied. This is calculated by dividing the sum of the product of the component of the force that is perpendicular to the displacement (which is called the work of the force) and the cosine of the angle between the force and the displacement. This is then integrated over the trajectory of the point where the force is applied, with the result being the power that was input into the system at that time.

Generally, a system can do negative work by moving against the force of gravity. This is because the gravitational force has the potential to pull an object down, which is counterproductive to its movement. Negative work can also be done by generating an electric current through a wire. This is because a positive electric charge has the potential to attract negative magnetic charges, which will cause an object to repel away from it.

The future of work isn’t just about reskilling people to do different kinds of routine tasks, or using new technology to complete them more efficiently. Instead, redefining work must involve cultivating and unlocking intrinsic human capabilities to undertake work for fundamentally different purposes. That way, organizations can capture more value by enabling workers to continually identify and solve unseen problems/opportunities, igniting more worker passion over time. That’s why our research finds that only by redefining work can we capture the true potential of employees. To learn more about the research and how you can begin to redefine your work, download our free white paper today.