What Is Work?

Work is the action of transferring energy to or from an object through the application of a force. It is the same unit as energy in the SI system, which is expressed as a joule (J).

A scalar quantity, work has no direction or magnitude and is equal to the product of the force and distance over which it is applied. It can also be expressed in non-SI units such as the newton-metre, erg and foot-pound, which are often used as measurement units for heat.

The simplest way to think about work is to imagine a block of mass moving along a fixed path with a force that acts in the same direction as the displacement. The force F is always constant, but the direction of displacement d changes from one moment to the next. This effect is called the affective component of force along the displacement direction and is what causes the block to move in the given direction.

When a force and the displacement of an object are in the same direction, it is said to be positive work. The motion of a ball falling towards the earth with its displacement being in the same direction as the force due to gravity is an example of this type of work. When the force and displacement are in opposite directions, it is called negative work.

Another example of work is the work done by a centripetal force that acts on a ball in uniform circular motion sideways, constraining it to circular motion. The force on the ball does zero work because it is perpendicular to its velocity, whereas the force on the string exerted inwards by the ball in uniform circular motion sideways does some work.

Some people have a hard time identifying when they are working. For many, it feels like they are just putting in the same old hours and doing the same old things day after day without ever really achieving anything of real value. This can be a problem for both people and organizations.

The future of work should be about shifting all workers’ attention, time, and effort from routine, tightly defined tasks to identifying and addressing unseen problems and opportunities. It should not be about simply automating away workers or augmenting them with technology, nor about changing the composition of the workforce or reskilling or leveling up employees to work elsewhere.

What’s more, it should be about imagining solutions that don’t yet exist for needs that haven’t even emerged. This is a much greater percentage of a worker’s workload than routine, tightly defined tasks.

It should be about engaging and empowering everyone to be an active creator of more meaning, value, and satisfaction by finding ways to unleash their imaginations to identify and address unseen challenges and opportunities.

Redefining Work is About Engaging People

A key element of redefining work is to shift all workersâ€™ time, effort, and attention from routine, tightly defined tasks to identifying, solving, and addressing unseen problems and opportunities. This is a much greater percentage of every worker’s workload than routine, tightly defined work, and it should be an evolving and expanding portion of all workers’ time and effort.