What Is Work?


Most people have heard the word “work” used in a variety of ways, from “I’m working on my resume” to “I’m really getting into the work of finding my niche”. But what is the actual definition of work? Is it the act of going to your job and doing something, or is it more about a state of being that includes all activities related to discovering one’s purpose, making an impact and connecting with others? And if it’s the latter, how can we help to cultivate and unlock that passion?

Whether you want to define work as the activity of going to your job or the more holistically defined process of discovery and pursuit of one’s passion, the answer is the same: it’s all about energy. It’s about capturing and channeling the energy of the workforce so that it can be applied to the ongoing identification of problems and opportunities, problem solving, solution development and implementation – in other words, work that adds value to the organization.

In physics, work is the transfer of energy that occurs when a force causes an object to move over a distance. The resulting energy change can be positive, negative or zero (depending on the direction of displacement and the direction of force), and it is measured in units called joules.

It may seem logical to think that the more force applied, the more work is done, but this is not always the case. In fact, in most situations where a force is exerted over a displacement, only the component of the force that is parallel to the direction of the displacement contributes to the work. For example, lifting a heavy weight over your head requires the same amount of effort as lifting it over your shoulder because both movements involve moving the same mass over the same distance.

Another important point about work is that it only applies to a movement, not a static position. This is because a force that does not result in a displacement has no energy change. That’s why it takes the same amount of energy to lift a briefcase off the ground as to hold it over your head – lifting it over your head moves the briefcase, but holding it still does no work.