Defining Work in the Modern-Day World: What Really is Work?

I recently came across the tweet below, and it made me rethink about what work really is in the present day world. The tweet and its thread targeted researchers but it easily applies to us all for we are members of the knowledge society. Please have a look at the tweet:

Thinking through the tweet and its message, I took time to recall what is commonly termed as work. I have no doubt that someone doing manual work (such as tilling of land or arranging books in a library) is definitely working. It however becomes more complicated when defining work in a modern working environment, where technologies such as computers reduce the need for manual labor. For instance, in early 2000, taking a photo with your camera required you to take a trip to process the film before you could share manual copies with friends. Come 2020 and your phone will easily capture awesome photos that you can then share with friends all over the world in minutes.

Technology has redefined not only photography but also job descriptions. A secretary that used to work with manual files and a typewriter now works with electronic files and a computer. Similarly, rather than posting a mail, you can now share important work updates via text messages and emails.

From the examples above, it becomes clearer why defining what work really is in the modern world is complicated. And that’s where that tweet comes in handy, because whereas sitting before a computer all day may not have been work in 2000, a computer in 2020 is the tool of empowerment for work e.g., animation, video editing, writing, coding, graphics design etc.

Work can no longer be defined by just the output or the literal activity to produce the output. Everything that contributes to this desired output is also work, even though it at times doesn’t feel like so. For this reason, today’s post also involves simple questions to help reflect upon your work:

  • What do you usually term as work?
  • What does it take to to do the ‘work’?
  • How about the activities you undertake in a day, how many do contribute (directly or indirectly) to your ‘work’?

After redefining your work, it is my hope you’ll now better appreciate your work like the Twitter user below, who posted this in appreciation of the aforementioned tweet.

Lead your life to reach your goals; live deliberately.

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