What is 'work'? How do you define it today?

With the ever blurring lines between the more traditional workplace and the more traditional life space, what are the key characteristics that make something 'work'. Blue sky question: what is work today?


Derrick Carpenter
Work for me is living my life on purpose. I created a mission statement for my life purpose in 2005. I was 42 years old had lost a business 4 years earlier & was teettering on the brink with another venture. I did some soul-searching and found at my core, I was a teacher, nuturer, encourager, like my grandfather, my mother, father & aunt. My classroom is the business arena & my purpose is to educate, empower & encourage as many people as possible to pursue their dreams.
8 Additional Answers
Mike Henry Sr. (Founder, Lead Change Group)
I define it as how you create value. We all must create more value than we consume. 'Work' is how we create the value we consume. It may be something we enjoy greatly or it may be something we do so we can do the things we enjoy. That depends on our makeup.
Frandy Chavez (Restaurant Manager, Texas Chicken)
Work is one venue where self-realization happens.Having a job taught me lessons really worth learning.Through having one gives me the sense of self-fulfillment.
It is through work that I earn and learn, it's so nice to feel you're able to help yourself,your family and friends because you've one.
It certainly serves your purpose in the world.
brandie chenoweth
I go to work every day and create value for the company that pays me. This in turn allows me to support my loved ones by providing food, shelter, education, etc. It is nice to have work you do not hate, but I think it is rather idealistic to assume everyone can love their work and only pursue work that they love. I work so that I can pursue other activities that bring me a sense of contentment and self-satisfaction. Unfortunately, for many of us, work is a means to an end.
Susan Lannis (Time Liberation Agent, ORGANIZATION Plus! Inc)
Work is the time, knowledge and resources I invest, to do projects and tasks I enjoy, to generate the revenue I need to live the life I want.
Richard Pell (Consultant, Human Resource Solutions Plus - HRSP)
With youth unemployment at an all time high here in the UK, work for a lot of young people is a dream that is increasingly difficult to realise. Time after time we hear young people commenting (often in quite colourful terms!) on the fact that having work or not having it makes a real impact on their self esteem and sense of self worth.

Barry Schaeffer (Principal Consultant, Content Life Cycle Consulting)
While there are, as has been said, many definitions for 'work', I think the one that fits a business setting best is:
'work is tangible progress toward, or completion of, tasks that the enterprise (generic meaning) must accomplish in order to fulfill its mission.'

This obviously means that work is defined only in terms of what it accomplishes. Anything less may be useful but does not move the enterprise toward its goals and leaves the involved tasks to be completed by others or at another time, at additional cost.

It does not mean showing up; it does not mean doing things shoddily, requiring that be redone; and it doesn't mean 'whatever you are getting paid for.'

This definition is of a piece with the definition of
'job'. It is not something you have or get, it is a series of things you do (hence the definition of work.)

Unfortunately, many in our younger generations seem to adhere to the former, almost believing (perhaps in naive good faith) that somewhere there is a shelf of jobs, and:
that they should be 'given' one when they are ready,
that once in possession of the 'job', they have succeeded and needn't worry about how much 'work' they do and, finally,
that they will only lose their 'job' at the hands of an unfair or prejudiced boss.

My, how things have changed! (-:
Ursula Mannix (CEO at Mannix Associates, Mannix Associates)
Work is a venue for freedom of expression. My consultancy has provided valued lessons and great rewards. Accountability to the zenith. Ultimately a self-actualization of purpose.
Charlie Judy (Global Director, HR Strategy & Operations, Navigant)
i really like all of your responses so far. they all seem a bit idealistic, though. do you think most Americans see work this way? are you painting a reality or a desired state?
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