What does it mean to bear the burden of emotional labor? This unpaid, unending work falls disproportionately to women, and it can be hard to define because it depends on the context. At work emotional labor includes adjusting the expressions of your emotions to benefit a colleague or client in a positive way (i.e. “service with a smile”). In relationships it can mean engaging in intensive conversations with friends and loved ones, listening to their problems, being in charge of hosting people when they visit, communicating with children’s teachers and doctors about their care, etc.