6 Types Of Work Environments (With Examples)

By Sky Ariella - Jul. 6, 2021
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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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 for an interviewer to ask a question or two about the type of work environment you prefer. Having a firm grasp on the variety of work environments helps you form a satisfactory answer to this question.

What Is a Work Environment?

A work environment is made up of the actual space where work is performed, the culture that a company cultivates, and the general conditions of employees.

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

  • The physical area. The size of your personal workspace (one desk vs. office) and layout (cubical vs. open) can have a big impact on your happiness at work. Consider that open floor plans usually indicate greater collaboration and places with large open communal areas usually value creativity and the exchange of ideas.

  • Facilities and hardware. Depending on your job, the equipment an office space offers can play a big role in your ability to get your job done efficiently. If you’re a receptionist who has to work with a copier from the 80s every day, you can expect a frustrating daily task. Also consider other spaces, like kitchens, conference areas, and even things like gyms, for assessing a work environment.

  • Working conditions. This part of the work environment may not be as obvious as the first two, but it’s just as important. Working conditions include things like working hours, scheduling, and safety. Even a job with a great team and a culture that suits you can have unreasonably long shifts or tasks that may be dangerous or unhealthy.

  • Company culture. This one is often hard to pin down, but culture is just a way that a group of individuals behave and expect others within their group to behave. This can apply to how management talks to employees, what policies are enforced and emphasized, how growth is supported, and what values are core to the organization.

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 situation can seriously harm productivity.

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

  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 a decline in work quality to further mutual understanding, they implement punishments to discourage this.

    Additionally, a degrading work environment does not recognize its employees for their accomplishments. This creates 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. Coworkers 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 a cohesive unit and function as one to create the best outcome.

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

How to Identify a Work Environment

The physical space, the working conditions, and the culture a company cultivates are all important features of a work environment. There are ways to learn about all three both before and during the application process:

  • The job description. While you might not learn too much about the physical work environment from a job description, you’ll likely find some information regarding working conditions and company values. Pay special attention to the part that looks like an “about us,” as the keywords employed here will provide ample hints as to what the work environment is like.

  • Read employee reviews. While employee reviews can be a little unreliable (either people writing glowing reviews as a favor for their supervisor or writing horrible ones over minor issues), they can provide good access to the “real” picture of what the inside of a company looks like.

    Our advice is to weed out the over-the-top positive and obvious-chip-on-the-shoulder negative reviews. Instead, focus on the moderate ones that give a fair account of the good and bad sides of working for a company.

  • Check the company’s website. Company websites often include a few photos of the inside of corporate spaces, but be warned that the company may only be posting their most attractive work environments. In any case, you’ll get a feel for a company’s values based on how they describe their space, their team, and their mission.

    It’s also worth checking out the company’s social media pages, as this will clue you into how they talk to the public and where they stand on relevant social matters.

  • Ask current employees. Having insider knowledge of a company is immensely useful when making a decision about where to work. If you’re interested in a company but don’t have any contacts, you can always try reaching out to peers at the company on LinkedIn. Just make sure that your own profile is looking good, or people are likely to ignore your messages.

  • Visit the office. Setting up an informational interview or being invited by a current employee is an amazing way to have a look at a work environment in action. You’ll see how people actually communicate, what the physical layout is like, and what sort of equipment you’d have on hand.

    This can offer a more natural look at a work environment than simply visiting the company’s website, but it might be trickier to get yourself in the building.

  • Ask your interviewer. If you’ve made it to the interview stage but are still unsure about the specifics of the work environment, asking the hiring manager or recruiter is a smart move. Of course, they’ll be trying to sell their organization just as much as you’ll be trying to sell yourself, so take everything with a grain of salt.

    But specific questions about policy, like flexible scheduling, work-life balance, and the space where you’d be working are all good things to nail down during your interview.

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 shows the hiring manager 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 Answers to “What Is Your Ideal Work Environment?”

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 coworkers 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 coworkers 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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Author

Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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