Work done on a free-standing body usually results in the displacement of an individual’s body from one location to another, either vertically or horizontally. This movement may be caused by mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, or even nuclear forces. When the force applied to a free-standing body is in the form of a thrust, then the work done results in the change of velocity from a point A to point B. Work done on a free-standing body is also done not only by the displacement of the free body from one location to another but by the compression of a gas, by rotating an electromagnetic shaft, and by generating or emitting electromagnetic radiation, such as by turning an engine.
This article will focus on redefining work by focusing on the hidden problems of routine tasks. Routine tasks are those activities that occur unconsciously and without our awareness. Examples of routine tasks are the way we brush our teeth, the way we sit at a desk, and the way we do our laundry. Although these activities are sometimes necessary, their overuse can have serious consequences on our human capabilities. Unconscious errors caused by repetition in routine tasks significantly reduce our efficiency and, as they do, our ability to enjoy life.
The hidden problem of routine tasks is not a technological one. It is a human problem. This is because human beings are highly complex systems with highly dynamic processes and structures. Thus, human activities, especially on the discipline of doing the same activity repeatedly, can lead to errors that become difficult to control. This is why redefining work means redefining the routines that underlie those activities, especially if those activities are not tightly defined and are often performed without considering their interactions with one another.
A good starting point for redefining work is to consider its meaning. Work is an activity in which one or more individuals attempt to meet some goal or objective. There is an important difference between meeting a goal or completing a task and creating value, however. In the former case, the outcome of an action is tangible and therefore valuable, while in the latter case the outcome of an activity has no value and is not necessary to the fulfillment of a goal or objective.
A second point to consider when redefining work is that the end result of a single activity cannot be separated from its underlying structure and its purpose. Work is not just the result of activities; rather, it is a process of creating and putting into use value. Any activity that creates value needs to be properly characterized so that we can determine what is necessary and what is unnecessary in terms of cost and effort. This is one way of overcoming the ‘value creation’ gap.
The third point to consider when redefining work is the importance of human capabilities. It is not sufficient to redefine work when an employee’s performance is poor because his abilities are lagging behind those of his co-workers. Rather, the company needs to be able to measure the relative skill of each employee through performance-based analysis and then optimize the training and development programs for each employee so that he matches his skills with his capabilities. Likewise, if the company wants to increase the productivity of its employees, it needs to properly define and measure their human capabilities. Only then will they be able to increase productivity with minimal cost and without waste.