Ashram life is the concept of everybody living, studying and working together as equals. Nobody is better, richer or cleverer. In this spirit everybody lives together and contributes towards the atmosphere to their utmost capacity.
Karma yoga is the work that we do. It may seem as if we are doing this work for the institution under compulsion and that it is for the department or the in-charge of the department, but in truth whatever work we do is for ourselves. We can think of it as a form of therapy because it is helping us to become aware of ourselves through action.
When we are active it is easier to observe the mind than when we try to sit and meditate. When we sit to meditate it becomes very difficult to watch the mind, but when we are working it is easy. We can see all the dimensions and dissipations of the mind. At the same time, because we are aware of our work, we are watching how we are working so these dissipations and dimensions of the mind don't become obsessive. We are able to control them because we have the handle of the work. So we also look upon work as a kind of self-therapy.
After a while, when you get used to this form of therapy, your mind begins to become more settled, focused and concentrated. You start to develop some control over the thought process as you work. This is important because when you live in the world, three quarters of your working time is spent, not in sadhana, asana, pranayama or meditation, but in action. So karma yoga has this significance as well as enabling everyone to contribute to the maintenance and development of the institution as a whole.