Types of Work Environments (With Examples)
A work environment is defined by many different factors. Some are quantifiable, such as the physical location and layout of the workplace. Others are not so easy to identify, such as the hours of work, employee engagement and job satisfaction.
The work environment of a company makes or breaks a business. It influences every area of the organization, from employee performance to leadership strategies.
You will be spending a lot of time at work, so it is important to find a job in a work environment that you will enjoy. Doing so will help to ensure you feel happy and engaged at work.
For employers, the work environment is important because happy staff are more productive. There will also be higher levels of employee satisfaction.
So, a positive work environment can help organizations to attract and retain talent.
But what makes a good work environment? There is no ‘one size fits all’ work environment. Every employee has their own preferences, and every industry has different requirements.
Working conditions that see one employee (or one team) thriving could leave others feeling unhappy. For example, a work environment suited to a group of creatives is unlikely to appeal to a team of nurses.
There are some factors that will have a positive impact on any work environment.
This article will hopefully help you to decide which types of work environment would be best suited to you.
The place of employment is the main indicator for this aspect of the work environment.
Indoors or outdoors – Indoor workplaces could be anywhere from an office or factory to a shop or a hospital. Outdoor work might be on a farm, building site or in a residential area. Some job roles offer a mix of indoor and outdoor work. For example, a real-estate agent will spend some time in the office and other parts of the day at property viewings.
Safety protocols – Every work location will have its own safety protocols for employees to follow. In high-risk environments, these tend to be very strict. Often, an organization with strict guidelines in one area tends to be very formal in other areas too. For example, in a factory environment, there will be many health and safety rules to follow. There will also be strict shift patterns and a staff uniform.
Size – The size of the physical space and its layout will have a bearing on the work environment. Its proximity to other businesses and local places will also be a factor.
Equipment and furnishings – The types of premises and business purpose will determine the equipment required. For example, an office will have workstations, IT equipment and printing facilities. A hospital will have several different departments, each with its own specialist equipment. The furnishings will also impact the work environment. For employees working outdoors, employers might offer a comfortable indoor space for rest breaks. Many include facilities like coffee machines, comfortable seating, and on-site fitness areas.
Creating an appealing physical environment helps to improve staff wellbeing. This can lead to improved productivity, helping employees to achieve their full potential.
Some employers expect staff to work shift patterns including nights and weekends. Others want staff to work traditional 9 to 5 hours on weekdays only.
If you want flexibility, seek out employers that support remote working or flexitime. Organizations with a fluctuating workload may offer overtime or on-call hours to help cover a 24/7 rota. These can be a good opportunity to increase your earnings. Finding a role that ensures you can enjoy a positive work-life balance is vital.
The way key stakeholders run the business will impact the company culture. Prospective employees should research the company's mission, objectives and values. Reading the company handbook or browsing the website is a good place to start.
Find out the company's mission statement. An effective mission statement has an impact on everything the business does.
Cultural elements such as the team hierarchy can be an indicator of the work environment. A tall hierarchy with many levels is often used by formal, traditional workplaces. If the hierarchy is flat with fewer levels, you can expect a more flexible work environment.
Observing the workplace 'in action' is a good way to assess the work environment. This will help you to find out whether it is a noisy and 'buzzy' place to work, or quiet and formal.
Some workplaces are appropriate for remote working. For example, office workers carrying out administrative work can often work remotely. But if you are working as a mechanic in a garage, you are highly unlikely to be able to enjoy the benefits of working from home.
Some organizations have a fluid pay structure. Others have rigid pay structures and rules to follow when it comes to salary negotiation. The pay structure in place is likely to be reflective of other aspects of the work environment.
Besides salary, some employers offer a rewards system to recognize success and achievement. Others put in place rigid systems to encourage development or increase productivity. Most people prefer work environments that celebrate achievement.
Some organizations only offer the minimum legal holiday entitlement. Other employers are more generous. If you enjoy regular vacations, you will prefer working for a company that believes in the benefits of staff having regular breaks from work.
Organizations that offer only the minimum leave entitlement are unlikely to be generous in other areas. For example, they may not offer sick pay or other employee benefits.
Internal communication is very important in defining the work environment. An organization with effective, two-way communication usually offers a positive work environment.
Some roles are very team-focused and expect collaborative working to achieve team goals. Others offer autonomy and personal targets, which may appeal to people who enjoy working at their own pace.
The attitude of current colleagues can also be telling. If they are positive about their roles and the workplace, it is likely they work in a good work environment.
If people seem unhappy, unproductive or lacking in motivation, this indicates an issue. This could be anything from heavy workloads that are difficult to manage to a lack of training opportunities.
Is there a structured process in place for giving and receiving feedback? Organizations offering regular feedback opportunities are likely to enjoy a good work environment.
This also applies to career development. If you are keen to progress, it is important to find an employer that supports regular training and succession planning.
This varies between employers and often depends on the job role. Some positions have a structured progression route from junior to senior roles. Other employers choose to promote staff on a case-by-case basis.
The conventional work environment is formal, conservative and inflexible. Traditional office hours (9 to 5) are in place from Monday to Friday. They tend to have a strict smart dress code and clear guidelines on achieving targets.
Organized people who enjoy working to specific objectives tend to enjoy this work environment. Secretarial and administrative roles working with data often have a traditional work environment.
The hierarchy is likely to be tall with many layers. This work environment has been popular for many years, but nowadays workers tend to want a more flexible work environment.
This work environment sits at the opposite end of the spectrum than 9 to 5 roles. It allows workers to adapt their hours, work schedules or workspace to suit their preferences. In exchange, they must complete work to a high standard, within agreed timescales.
Employers adopting this approach believe they will get more from staff by allowing them to work in ways that suit them. Self-motivated, driven employees tend to perform well in a flexible environment. People who lack self-discipline would not work as well in this environment.
The flexible work environment tends to have a relaxed hierarchy and work schedules. It aims to offer benefits to both the company and its employees.
The work output is high because the workers are happy and able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This helps the company attract and retain a talented workforce.
The competitive work environment is popular with sales teams, retail and start-ups. It is driven by competition, with employees working towards targets. Often, monetary-based rewards or benefits are available to staff and teams that meet their goals.
To flourish in this work environment, employees must be assertive and driven to succeed. This work environment is often seen in real-estate agencies and call centers.
Many career paths in the arts offer a creative work environment.
Creatives such as actors, dancers, designers and artists enjoy an unstructured approach to work. This ensures they can experiment and express themselves.
The nature of their work means they prefer flexible working hours to allow time to reflect and be inspired.
If they are performing in a theatre or show, their hours of work will fall at very specific times.
In this work environment, motivation techniques are linked to fear of negative consequences if targets are not met. This work environment is often observed in factories.
The employer seeks to increase productivity by scaring or punishing their staff. Poor quality of work and behavior issues are punished, instead of working with the employee to address the root cause.
Achievements usually go unnoticed and employee turnover tends to be high. Most people prefer to steer clear of punitive work environments.
The physical factors of this work environment are defined by the work tasks. Typical job roles include skilled work, for example, plumbing, construction and engineering.
People who enjoy physical work or working with their hands prefer practical work environments.
Some practical roles require workers to spend most of the working day outdoors, for example, agricultural work, gardening or building.
Job roles in collaborative work environments center around people. They include regular social interaction and attract people who are motivated by helping others. Typical job roles include nursing, teaching, social work and business consultancy.
To thrive in this environment, you will need excellent interpersonal skills and high empathy levels.
Emotional engagement is vital to ensure workers are committed to their work. Due to the human element, this can lead to higher stress levels in collaborative work environments.
Regardless of industry, a positive work environment promotes open communication throughout the hierarchy. Everyone has respect for each other and understands their own role, the roles of others and the boundaries between roles.
Management has a fair, consistent approach and wants to meet the needs of employees. They value each employee and their contribution to the success of the business.
There is a fair, balanced evaluation system, meaningful rewards and opportunities to progress.
The physical aspects of a positive work environment tend to link with the job role and industry. For example, for office-based roles, employers should offer a clean, functional workplace. It should have spacious workstations, comfortable seating and adequate breakout areas. The space should be big enough to accommodate all necessary resources and equipment. Staff must be able to move around without feeling cramped.
In all industries, employees must have access to the relevant equipment to do their work. Whether this is provided depends on the organization and/or job role. For example, a carpenter or technician might be expected to bring their own tools. But in an office, IT equipment and printing facilities are usually provided by the employer.
The quality of your work environment will affect your wellbeing, working relationships and work output. It is vital to find a job in a work environment that you will enjoy.
Understanding your work environment preferences is important when applying for jobs. Interviewers will often ask what type of work environments you enjoy working in. Finding out your preferences will help you to decide which job roles you are most likely to enjoy.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Do you prefer working by yourself or as part of a close-knit team?
- Do you enjoy planning your own workload or following a structured plan?
- Are informal social events important to you? Or do you prefer to keep your social life separate from work?
- Are you motivated by a structured reward system? Or are you happy with informal recognition and praise?
It may help to think about the things you would not enjoy. Then you can start to narrow down the types of work environment you will enjoy.
After you have done this, consider the types of job roles that fall into each of these work environments. Then decide which job roles are the best match for your qualifications, skills and experience.
Ultimately, understanding your preferences will enable you to home in on the best work environment for you.
Once you have started employment, you will spend a lot of time at work. It is important to find a job in a work environment that suits your values, personality and preferences.
Regardless of the job role or industry, a positive work environment will offer:
- Appropriate equipment and resources
- Effective two-way communication
- Career development opportunities
There is no such thing as the perfect work environment for everyone. But finding one that suits your preferences will ensure job satisfaction and make a difference to the quality of your working life.
For employers, ensuring a good work environment helps to attract and retain the best talent.