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The Work Environment: Definition, Key Features, and Types

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What does the phrase, work environment, mean?Elements of a work environmentTypes of successful work environments Why is it important to have a positive work environment? Characteristics of a positive work environment 

Guide Overview

An introduction to the work environment

When choosing a job or trying to maintain effective operations, it's important to consider the work environment of a company, which is the collection of situational factors that form the corporate atmosphere. While a positive office atmosphere can improve your morale, a negative one can demotivate you. Learning about this important workplace feature can help you to identify a healthy environment. To discover the key features of the work environment, its importance, and successful types, consider this article.

What does the phrase, work environment, mean?

A work environment refers to the elements that comprise the setting in which employees work and impact workers. While some items that comprise it are obvious, such as the wall treatment or the number of indoor plants, others are more obtuse, such as company politics or a coworker whose personality traits do not suit the company culture. Professionals working in both full-time and part-time positions are significantly impacted by their office environment because they have to perform their duties inside it. Usually, workers are required to adapt to this workplace feature.

For example, the walls of your office are painted in pale green, which is a color you dislike. This wall treatment is a part of the work environment. In this scenario, you can avoid looking at them when you’re taking a short break from your computer screen. Similarly, the company to which you’re applying may have a policy of using group interviews to reduce recruitment costs. This policy is a part of the work environment, but you dislike it. In this scenario, you will have to complete the group interview if you want the job.

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Elements of a work environment

A work environment is usually comprised of a collection of diverse elements in relation to corporate conditions and job-specific conditions, such as:

Corporate conditions

There are several corporate conditions in a workplace that contribute to its environment, such as:

Employer’s programs for employees: This part of the work environment relates to the initiatives implemented by an employer to promote training, recreation, and engagement of workers. These activities impact employees and contribute to their morale, skills, engagement, and productivity.

Physical features: Items such as the building in which the company operates, its architecture, its size, the color of its walls, the layout of work areas, the furniture and its arrangement, office equipment and its placement, the flooring, the amount of light in the space, indoor plants, cleanliness, and facilities impact the performance of job duties and are an element of the work environment.

Leadership style: The leadership style preferred by an organization is an important feature of the work environment because it influences how people work and how supervisors and subordinates collaborate.

Company policies and protocols: These are a key element of the work environment as they can affect employee behavior, how work is performed, and the manner in which workers interact. Promoting positive feedback on employees and encouraging worker involvement in the recruitment process are examples of this element of the environment.

Company values: The values of the employer typically influence company policies and protocols, programs for employees, and leadership styles, all of which contribute to the work environment. Consequently, corporate values are an important element of the work environment.

Employee opinions: The reactions of workers to corporate conditions, such as employer’s programs and workplace architecture, become another important condition that contributes to the work environment because these responses reflect their motivation, satisfaction, and engagement, which will affect their productivity over time.

Social behaviors: Most workplaces include people who are tasked with working together to achieve common objectives, and the resulting team dynamics influence the work environment. Similarly, politics among workers, supervisors, and senior management can alter the office atmosphere by impacting an employee’s ease of performing job duties, morale, and productivity. In certain cases, redundant social features can imperil a healthy work environment and increase the difficulty of working in it.

Job-specific conditions

There are several conditions that are specific to occupations and impact the office environment, including:

Job benefits: This element of the work environment relates to the main benefits in the worker’s employment contract, such as salary, health insurance, dental insurance, and terms for leave. Invariably, these benefits will directly impact an employee’s motivation, loyalty to the organization, performance of job duties, and contribution to organizational productivity.

Job conditions: Each occupation has unique characteristics in relation to working hours, flexibility of scheduling work, level of oversight, terms of employment, and employee compliance with safety legislation. These conditions contribute to the work environment,

Job satisfaction: The average satisfaction of workers contributes to the work environment because it impacts employee morale, influences team morale, and creates a job condition.

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Types of successful work environments 

There are different types of successful work environments, including:

Team-based work environment

In a team-based environment, the workplace is structured to support teamwork and reward the success of team players. Key benefits of working in this setting can include sharing responsibilities with a group of people, developing strong professional bonds with coworkers, and developing teamwork skills.

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Individual-focused work environment

In an individual focused environment, workers are given the freedom to choose a working style that suits their productivity. Key benefits can include having the freedom to work independently, work from home, choose flexible hours, bring pets to work, and customize one’s workspace.

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Fast-paced work environment

Extroverts can find a fast-paced environment rewarding. Workers in this setting must adapt quickly to environmental changes, multitask, and achieve targets. Key benefits can include working in an exciting atmosphere, enjoying rapid environmental changes, and connecting with coworkers who have similar personalities.


In a communication-focused work environment, various key elements of the company, such as the layout of the building interior and company policies, target establishing and maintaining dialogue between employees. Key benefits of this type of work environment can include a cooperative atmosphere in which workers help each other, mutual-feedback for managers and followers, a lack of workplace conflicts, and improved teamwork.

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In a skeptical environment, employees are encouraged to ask questions and challenge ideas. Key benefits of this setting can include fostering innovation, motivating workers, promoting employee engagement, increasing productivity due to the contributions of engaged workers, and avoiding the pitfalls of groupthink.


An artistic environment supports creativity and innovation through the layout of the work space and company policies in areas such as dress code, working hours, and rewards for high performers. Key benefits can include increasing employee motivation, boosting creativity and innovation, enhancing employee satisfaction, reducing turnover, and cutting recruitment costs.

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Why is it important to have a positive work environment? 

It’s important to have a positive work environment for many reasons, including:

  • It can involve better conditions for workers, which can improve loyalty and build the corporate brand.
  • It can increase employee satisfaction, motivation, and engagement.
  • It can increase the productivity of workers who are eager to contribute to the company.
  • It can avoid creating conditions in which the workers are dissatisfied or demotivated.
  • It can make it easier to identify issues in the environment, such as an adversarial worker who reduces morale.
  • It can include managers who use positive reinforcement to build employee satisfaction and engagement.
  • It can include workers who treat others with respect and empathy.
  • It can avoid distractions that prevent workers from performing their job responsibilities.
  • It can support communication between workers from different occupations and levels of the company.
  • It can generate many opportunities for professional growth through items such as internal promotions or training programs.
  • It can encourage positive thinking among workers through employer programs, visual details in the physical setting, and worker-friendly policies.
  • It can promote a work-life balance for both supervisors and subordinates.

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Characteristics of a positive work environment 

You can identify a positive work environment with the following characteristics:

  • It acknowledges the contribution of employees through job benefits and opportunities for job growth.
  • It encourages the participation of employees in company operations.
  • It fosters employee contribution to decision-making, such as through peer interviewing.
  • It rewards productive employees.
  • It supports the individuality of workers, and promotes individual working styles.
  • It’s built to encourage communication between employees.
  • Managers prefer a democratic leadership style or situational leadership.
  • It values mutual feedback between managers and subordinates.
  • It holds individuals accountable for their work.
  • It supports teams by promoting collaboration between staff members.
  • It encourages an environment in which workers can learn from their mistakes.
  • It’s structured to identify and correct negative office politics that reduce organizational performance.
  • It supports a healthy work-life balance for all employees.

As discussed, the work environment is a key component of any workplace. Use what you have learned to assess the environment in your current job or identify a positive one during your job search.

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