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What Are the Different Types of Work Environment?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 16, 2024

There are many different types of work environment. Several attempts have been made to quantify the different types in an organized way, as seen with the Holland Codes proposed by John Holland, a psychologist with an interest in matching people with work environments that suit their personalities. They can be broken down by the type of work done, the physical environment, or the social and situational factors that can play a role in shaping the workplace. Matching employees with the right environment can result in better performance and more satisfaction.

Holland’s approach to the types of work environment looked at the nature of the work done. He identified six different environments: realistic, social, enterprising, artistic, investigative, and conventional. Some workplaces use this model to assess prospective employees to determine if they would be a good fit and to find the best department for their skills and interests.

In realistic environments, work is more hands on, while investigative environments place a high priority on thinking and theoretical discussions. Enterprising environments involve more self initiative to start and innovate projects. Conventional work environments use set protocols and routines, such as databasing customer information, while artistic environments promote creativity and the production of works of art. Social work environments involve a high degree of interaction, as seen in customer service and teaching.

Another way to look at work environments is to assess the physical surroundings, differentiating between offices, warehouses, retail stores, scientific research facilities, fieldwork sites, and so forth. These work environments may be suited to different kinds of personalities and career goals. The physical environment can also have an impact on suitability for work; some people do not enjoy the rigid and controlled climate of a lab, for instance, or prefer working outdoors. Concerns about conditions in different types of work environment may be an issue for some job seekers with worries about their ability to thrive in physically demanding or boring environments.

The social and psychological climate can also be a metric to use when distinguishing between different types of work environment. Some workplaces have very rigid chains of command, while others may be more flexible and egalitarian. Employees may be encouraged to participate, offer feedback, and shape their environment, or could be expected to focus on tasks without criticizing their employers or supervisors. Some workplace climates can become hostile because of a tolerance for harassment or ferocious competition, while others are more friendly and relaxed.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By fify — On Aug 19, 2011

@burcidi-- I'm an employer and honestly, I didn't know the term "Holland codes" before but yes, I do think about the work environment and hire employees who are a good fit.

This is what my entire hiring process is composed of. We do a lot of research and data gathering and I have to make sure that I hire people who won't be frustrated doing this type of work. I might not call our workplace "investigative" but when I describe it, I'm describing an investigative workplace.

I cannot imagine that any employer would ignore the nature of the work environment and the personalities that would fit in and work well there. We want our workplace to be a well coordinated, well run place with efficient and happy employees. I do my best to hire and work with people who will be happy and who will make me happy there.

By burcidi — On Aug 18, 2011

I learned about the Holland codes recently in a college course. We actually took a questionnaire to determine which of the work environments would work for us. My work personally turned out to be realistic and I totally agree with it because I hate having do deal with data and research. I just want to do something and get results. So the realistic work personality does represent me well.

It's also great to know this before graduating and applying for jobs because I wouldn't want to apply for a job that I'm not going to like doing.

At the same time though, I might not have the luxury of choosing. Especially considering the economy and competition for jobs. At least in the beginning, I might have to do any job that I get.

Do employers really know about Holland codes and care about getting the right employees for their work environment?

By burcinc — On Aug 17, 2011

I completely agree with this theory about matching different personalities with work environments. I personally enjoy flexible, creative and social work environments. I also enjoy being able to work with my bosses one to one and share my ideas with them.

When I have been able to work in environments that provided these conditions, I have been less stressed, more concentrated on my work and much more efficient and successful at what I do.

Several of my previous jobs had a very strict environment based on rules and boundaries. Speaking to a superior was difficult and uncomfortable and sharing ideas was out of the question. I was miserable in these environments, often had trouble concentrating and was so stressed that I was not as efficient. Consequentially I did not stay in these work environments for very long.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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