What Is Work?


Work is a fundamental activity that enables human beings to create value for themselves and others. The value created can be either monetary or non-monetary. Non-monetary value creation includes intellectual property (IP), customer relationships, employee engagement and innovation. It can also include community service, charitable activities and philanthropy. Despite the importance of these activities, they do not receive the same level of recognition or compensation as traditional business activities. This disparity has led to a number of trends and challenges for companies as they seek to define work and maximize its value.

In scientific terms, work is the action of a force that causes an object to be displaced. It is a vector quantity with both magnitude and direction, and it can be calculated as the product of the force exerted on an object times the displacement it causes. The SI unit for work is the joule, which is equal to the product of the magnitude of the force F, times the magnitude of the displacement d, times the cosine of the angle between them.

There are a variety of conditions that must be met for work to occur. The most basic requirement is that the force must cause a motion. If the object simply sits still, no work is done. If the motion is one-way, no work is done if the direction of the force is perpendicular to the motion. Otherwise, work is done if the direction of the movement is parallel to the force.

The amount of work done is equal to the increase in the kinetic energy of the object. Since kinetic energy is equivalent to mass times acceleration, the more mass an object has, the more kinetic energy it has. The unit for work and energy is the joule, which is equal in magnitude to the product of the force F times the displacement of the object d.

Another condition for work is that the amount of work must be proportional to the time elapsed. Since a moving object requires more time to accelerate than an object at rest, it must do more work to overcome the inertia of its mass and move. This is why it takes longer to lift an object from your hand to your head than to raise the same weight over your head from a table.

From a social perspective, work refers to the effort and time that is spent on a task. A person’s work may be a creative endeavor such as an artistic masterpiece, a book or a piece of music. It can also be a scholarly pursuit such as research or a dissertation. Alternatively, work can be defined more broadly as a job or profession. In this case, it can refer to the career of a politician, lawyer or professor as well as a position in an office such as an accountant, salesperson or banker. Lastly, the term can refer to the daily tasks that a person must complete to earn a living.