5 Types of Work Environments

by | Jun 5, 2020 | Blog

The work environment is created by a number of different factors, one of which is your company values. These values, when well defined, will shape the attitudes of those who work with you, those who work with you and your responses to customers and colleagues.

Knowing what type of environment you want to create for your employees is important. You need to attract and retain the right employees, encourage creativity and productivity and, most importantly, spend most of your time in that environment. 

What is a work environment?

A work environment is the setting, social features and physical conditions in which you perform your job. These elements can impact feelings of wellbeing, workplace relationships, collaboration, efficiency and health. Here are the significant aspects of a work environment:

  • Physical environment: This means the size, layout and location of a workplace, whether work is conducted indoors or outdoors, what facilities are offered in a workplace and what furnishings used while working, as well as if work is performed remotely or in an office.
  • Company culture: This element refers to the way a company and its employees operate, including what effective communication looks like between different levels of staff, employees’ perspective of company leaders, the company’s goals and what the organization values.
  • Working conditions: This element includes the formal terms under which staff members are hired, such as the rate of pay, contract of employment and length of the workday. It can also cover recreational activities and other initiatives to promote a healthy workplace.

Elements of a work environment

The following descriptions of each work environment element can help you to identify a positive and productive workplace:

Physical environment

The physical conditions you offer employees play a crucial role in enabling them to reach their full potential. Some critical aspects of your physical environment include:

  • Size: The size of your working area can have an impact on whether you have everything at hand to accomplish your job, while at the same time significantly influencing how you feel at work. To evaluate the size of your workspace, consider the amount of space you have to move freely, whether you have all the equipment you need nearby and if the area is large enough to accommodate all staff members.
  • Layout: Some indoor workplaces have an open floor plan, while others use cubicles or other dividers to separate spaces. The design of a workplace may depend on the type of work. For example, a more collaborative environment may benefit from an open layout, while a job that requires discretion would better operate with separate offices or cubicles to ensure privacy.
  • Furnishings: Desks, chairs, conference tables and other workplace furniture can also impact employees on the job. Access to comfortable and adequate seating, clean workspaces and functional desks can ensure indoor workplaces remain efficient. Outdoor workplaces may include comfortable furniture and sheltered areas that include heating or air conditioning for break times.
  • Equipment: Some roles require special equipment to do their job, and depending on the company, the employer may or may not provide it. Some roles, such as a mechanic, may be required to bring their own set of tools. Indoor office spaces are more likely to provide the necessary equipment, such as computers, printers and other essential technology used on the job.
  • Facilities: Other facilities can influence how you feel physically and mentally during your working life. Being able to take a break or go to the bathroom are essential parts of any productive daily routine, so the location of these facilities can also impact the work environment. Additional facilities such as relaxing spaces and on-site gyms can also have a positive influence on employees.
  • Location: Some roles predominantly work inside, some spend most of their working day outside and certain roles may have a mixture of both indoor and outdoor work. Many employers may provide additional facilities or equipment to ensure employees are comfortable while working and productivity is maintained.

Company culture

Your company’s beliefs and how their goals align with employees can be a substantial factor in creating a comfortable workplace. Here are the significant elements of company culture:

  • Code of conduct: Some companies may explain their business culture in a formal code of conduct or provide guidelines for employees. These documents can have you following certain conditions when performing tasks as well as when interacting with coworkers, workplace leaders and external stakeholders. These guidelines are often found in an employee handbook.
  • Encouragement and development: Some employers directly promote collaboration and teamwork, emphasize positive feedback and consistently celebrate employees who succeed. Other employers may provide more constructive feedback to encourage employees to improve.
  • Company mission statement: This statement is a set of values the company seeks to advance through its work. While these values may not be discussed daily, they guide every task you do and each goal you set as a contributor to the organization.

Working conditions

The following elements determine what a typical workday might look like and how your employment impacts areas of your life unrelated to work:

  • Work-life balance: The number of hours worked each week and when can vary depending on the role, company and industry. Some organizations may promote work-life balance by offering generous paid time off or flexible work schedules. Other employers may encourage employees to work overtime to meet deadlines or provide 24/7 service to clients.
  • Terms of employment: In addition to set hours, these terms may include whether your work is a temporary contract or permanent employment. This element may also include benefits and paid time off stipulations as well.
  • Workplace safety: There are nationally mandated workplace safety regulations that all employers must follow. Your employer might display the regulations in public spaces to ensure all employees understand and adhere to these policies. In addition, the safe use of equipment, as well as accessibility to exits, emergency equipment and first-aid, also impacts this element of working conditions.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Some employers may encourage employees to stay fit and eat balanced meals to improve their overall wellbeing. They may provide standing desks, gym memberships and access to healthy snacks, such as fruit.

Types of work environments

There are many different types of work environments that include a combination of physical components, company culture and working conditions. What elements make for the best type of work environments depend on an organization’s industry and age, the number of and types of employees, and the ideal environment the organization wants to cultivate.

According to the Holland theory of personality and job compatibility, some environments may be a better match for certain personalities. When individuals are considering a work environment, they should think about their personal characteristics and values to see what fits. Personality-based work environments include:

  • Realistic: This environment promotes physical activity and may be best for more kinesthetic employees, also called “doers.” Those who work well in this environment are often skilled at and prefer using tools and working with their hands. Jobs with realistic work environments include those in engineering, maintenance and construction.
  • Investigative: This type of environment is built on critical thinking, experimentation and problem-solving. Much of the work in this environment involves gathering evidence, studying information and learning as well as making conclusions. Employees who are “thinkers” can thrive in these environments, which are often found in careers like healthcare, engineering and technology.
  • Artistic: This environment encourages innovation and experimentation as well as personal expression. Artistic environments are often best for those known as “creators” who thrive in more flexible and emotional settings. Some careers that work best in this type are in fields like design, fine art and performance.
  • Social: This type of environment promotes communication, helping, healing and education between employees. Those who do well in this environment are often known as “healers” and have traits such as kindness, empathy and compassion. Careers that typically offer social working environments include education, social work, counselling and nursing.
  • Enterprising: This work environment also involves communication but has an emphasis on guiding others towards goals. Enterprising environments are best for “persuaders” who thrive on competition and prefer to serve in roles that involve selling, convincing and debating. Some careers that have enterprising environments include real estate, politics and public service, and sales.
  • Conventional: This environment is built on specificity, predictability and organization. Those who prefer traditional environments are often referred to as “organizers” and work best in settings that have clear order, encourage practicality and value dependability. Roles that exist in conventional work environments include those in finance, assistant positions and traditional office settings.

As a business, creating an environment that attracts the right talent, and encourages them to want to continue working with your company, is vital to your development, growth and revenue.

You also need to ensure that your workplace confirms with local laws and regulations about workplace health and safety, as well as international human rights obligations. While for most businesses such considerations are taken for granted, you might also want to be certain that any of your partners or supply chain partners are also complicit with your overall company values.