What is this thing called work?
Is it anything we don't want to do? Often, I do not want to answer my front door. If I deign to do so, most of us would not regard the action as work, but if I hired a person to do so, opening the door would be work.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines work as: "Physical or mental effort; labor. A task or duty. Something that has been produced as a result of effort."
The effort part is pretty broad and could include skiing down a mountain to get a drink at a lodge. The task or duty standard is also troublesome. I've gone to many a social event that could fall under that category and, although I may have deserved an award for doing so, it wasn't work.
At least, I don't think it was.
Our personal definition of work can have enormous impact on our attitudes. Those of us who are prone to guilt (raise your hands!) may suffer unduly if we think of work as the mental or physical equivalent of ditch-digging. Anything less strenuous or less painful is regarded as goofing off.
As a result, we throw ourselves into tasks with the notion that an activity does not really qualify as working unless it hurts or is exhausting. Once an action is or becomes fun - oops! - we've slipped out of the work zone. Work and fun are wrongly thought to be mutually exclusive. [Work is not like the famous definition of obscenity because many of us do not know when we see it.]
The association of work with pain almost guarantees a lack of appreciation for much of the work that is accomplished. That problem in itself illustrates the need for a clearer definition of work. Some items for consideration:
- Work can be any task depending on the circumstances.
- Work can be fun, difficult, painful, easy, exhausting or exhilarating. Much depends upon the attitude of the performer.
- Work is usually related to significant effort, either during or before the task. You may perform a task that seems easy but which took years to master.
- Work is not automatically linked to compensation. A great deal of work is unpaid.
- Work is linked to obligation. That obligation may be to another person or organization in order to obtain compensation or favor or it may be the result of personal desire or ambition.
Work is what we call a task to distinguish it from play. No more. No less.