Work Environment Types And Examples

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 8, 2021
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Articles In Life At Work Guide

The work environment of a business either fosters the success of the corporation or tears it to shreds. It dictates how well employees function and how their supervisory staff handles them. The tricky thing about a professional environment is that every individual prefers something different.

The conditions which allow some employees to thrive will stifle others. For this reason, it’s common to receive a question or two about the type of work environment you enjoy from an interviewer. Having a firm grasp on the variety of work environments helps you form a satisfactory answer to this question.

6 Different Kinds of Work Environments

A work environment consists of the conditions that you spend your professional time in. There is a wide variety of healthy workplace environments available that cater to different preferences and values. Not every work environment is beneficial, and a negative circumstance can severely harm productivity.

Examples of aspects that affect a person’s work environment include:

Work environments differ individually in the factors that they provide and lack. Below are examples of 6 different kinds of common work environments:

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  1. The 9-to-5 environment. When people think about what defines a work environment, the traditional 9-to-5 is often where the mind wanders. It’s the day that begins with going into the office at 9 in the morning and leaving when the sun sets at 5. This continues for a five-day workweek.

    A company that employs a 9-to-5 schedule is usually strict about other aspects of work-life, such as dress code and a specific protocol for handling workloads.

    Although this is one of the most common work environments, it’s a difficult schedule to keep. Most people who work in the 9-to-5 often prefer an alternative because it doesn’t allow much room for individual employee contribution.

  2. The flexible environment. The flexible work environment is the polar opposite of the traditional 9-to-5. It gives employees the freedom to customize their work schedule, hours, and space however they like, as long as they get their work in on time and well. This type of work environment focuses on the fact that each employee is an individual who knows for themselves what work environment works best for them.

    The flexible work environment may sound like perfection, but it requires employees to have a great deal of self-discipline. If you’re unable to accomplish all your work without having a supervisor watch you, a flexible work environment probably isn’t the right fit for you.

  3. The degrading environment. A degrading work environment focuses on getting the best productivity out of its employees by scaring them into submission. Rather than discussing poor behavior or lacking work quality with an employee to further mutual understanding, they implement punishments to discourage this.

    Additionally, a degrading work environment does not recognize its employees for their accomplishments. Creating a system of workers who are putting forth maximum effort in the hopes that they don’t get penalized. While this may work for a short amount of time, it quickly leads to high employee turnover.

  4. The constructive feedback environment. Co-workers and supervisors witness your work performance daily and gather a lot of productive insights during that time. In a constructive feedback environment, this feedback is seen as a valuable tool for improving overall team performance.

    In contrast to a degrading environment, the constructive feedback environment doesn’t belittle an employee for making a mistake on the job. Instead, it turns it into an opportunity to upgrade their performance. This creates a professional domain where employees feel comfortable to work freely.

  5. The competitive environment. Most people are familiar with the feeling of competing with their peers for the achievement of first place. In a work environment, this often occurs in the form of offering raises, promotions, or other incentives to the highest performing employees.

    The competitive work environment does foster a sense of urgency to excel in some team members, but it can make others crumble under pressure. Depending on the industry, a competitive work environment is implemented to weed out these individuals who won’t excel under the stress of competition.

  6. The collaborative environment. A collaborative environment uses each employee’s unique strengths to off-set the team’s inevitable weaknesses. In this type of work circumstance, the employees of a company see themselves as cohesive and function as one to create the best outcome.

    Collaborative environments function well because it requires a lot of strong communication, which creates a space for open dialogue between employees and their supervisors.

How to Answer “What Is Your Ideal Work Environment” in an Interview

An interview is an opportunity for an employer to see if a candidate is the right fit for their company. The hiring manager asks questions like “what is your ideal work environment” to find out if you’ll succeed in their organization.

The trick to answering this question well is being overwhelmingly truthful with a hint of research into the company’s culture to establish a smart strategy. Your background knowledge of the company gives you the footing to know if your ideals line up with the way they run their organization.

When answering what constitutes your ideal work environment, dig deep into what qualities you value in a professional space. For example, one applicant might prefer to work on a team with the help of their co-workers to complete their projects. The next candidate has an independent personality and feels constricted when they don’t have the freedom to do work on their own.

Discussing the realities of your preferences with the interviewer helps you both understand further if you’ll work well at their business.

Tips for Giving a Strong Answer About Preferred Work Environment

  1. Research company culture. The best way to give a satisfactory answer when an interviewer asks about your work environment preferences is already having previous knowledge about the company you’re interviewing with. This is a strong move to make whether this question is brought up or not because it tells you if you even want to work with the organization at all.

    Explaining that your ideal work environment is akin to the company’s culture you’re applying for shows them that you will be comfortable in the role.

  2. Think about your preferences before the interview. Another way to prepare for this question in an interview is by sitting back and reflecting on what your preferences are when it comes to a working environment.

    It may be something that you haven’t considered before, but everyone has qualities that they prefer in their professional environment. Gather the features you need in your space to get work done effectively.

  3. Prioritize what qualities you value most. Once you’ve collected a list of work environment qualities that you prefer, narrow it down to the most valuable aspects. It’s tough to get everything you want in a single position, so consider what parts of the work environment are an absolute necessity for you to work productively. In an interview, stick to these prioritized qualities that create your ideal work environment.

Examples of Answers You Should Give

Learning about how to formulate an answer to “what is your ideal work environment” is one thing, but actually crafting one is another. Reviewing the following examples of strong interview answers might help with starting work on your own.

Example 1

“My ideal work environment is a place where I can work with my co-workers as a unit to create the best possible product. I believe that the best work in marketing is completed when multiple different personalities and perspectives are contributing. The collaborative nature described in the posting for this role is what drew me to apply for it in the first place.”

Example 2

“Although I enjoy meeting with my co-workers periodically throughout the month and think it’s productive, I prefer an environment that I can complete the majority of my work independently. As a software developer, I do a lot of work by myself and then come to my team to tweak it afterward. Having the space to work on my software before it’s collaborated on is the best work environment for me.”

Examples of Answers You Should Not Give

Example 1.

“I prefer working on a team because I don’t like having to do all of the work on projects by myself. I think it’s easier to work with other people because they’re equally responsible.”

Why it’s bad. This answer is very negative, which is a quality you should avoid during an interview. Additionally, the tone leaves the impression of a lazy employee who is already putting their work on someone else. Another quality that hiring managers avoid.

Example 2.

“I want to work by myself. I always get my work done on time, so I think I should be able to do the majority of my work from home, alone.”

Why it’s bad. This answer comes across as demanding of a particular work environment and dismissive of the idea that they’d have to collaborate. You won’t get anywhere in an interview by being difficult before you’re even hired.

Possible Follow-up Questions

After asking you about your ideal work environment, a hiring manager moves on to other matters. Below are some follow-up questions to prepare for a job interview:

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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