During the Corona crisis a new category of work sprang up in several European countries: “essential work.” It suggests looking at work in a way that goes beyond the valuation by markets. It leads from the question of what makes certain jobs essential to that of which goods or functionings are essential for human societies. In this chapter, we explore what the category of “essential work” can mean. First, we provide a press analysis of articles published in Germany, France and the United Kingdom, to show how “essential work” has been linguistically framed during the first wave of the Corona pandemic. Second, we combine the public discourse on “essential work” with theoretical reflections on the nature and value of work, drawing on Graeber’s notion of “bullshit jobs” and the discourse on “meaningful work.” Both reject an evaluation of work purely from the perspective of markets, but they remain tied to the perspective of individuals. We suggest zooming out to a broader societal perspective by drawing on the capability approach. We argue that it can point us to the right questions about which functions a society must provide for its citizens, but that it should be combined with a perspective of sustainability.