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Defining Your Ideal Work Environment

Written by Colleen Coleman

What does “work environment” mean?

“Work environment” refers to both the physical and social characteristics of a workplace. Geographic location and noise-level are examples of physical characteristics. Social characteristics describe the relationships among a company’s staff, as well as a company’s processes and procedures. “Collaborative,” “organized,” and “innovative” could be used to describe a work environment. “Work culture,” which can be thought of as the final component or subcategory of work environment, refers to a company’s mission and goals.

Why is it important to know what your ideal work environment is?

You should take the time to determine what your ideal working environment is because it will allow you to predict (with great accuracy) the companies and positions in which you will be most productive and satisfied. Employers often ask candidates to describe their ideal work environment during interviews and compatibility between a candidate’s ideal work environment and their company’s work environment is one indicator that they’ve found a good match for the position. Knowing your ideal work environment can also help you when it comes to making a decision after receiving multiple job offers.

How do you determine what your ideal working environment is?

Here are a few steps you can take to determine your ideal working environment:

  1. Think about the physical and social environments of all the places you’ve worked in thus far. Are there any strong similarities between these environments? Any major differences? In which workplace were you the most productive? In which of these places did you most enjoy work overall, and why?
  2. Look at your personality for more clues. If you are introverted, you likely enjoy working in a quiet setting and can work independently. If you are extroverted, you likely prefer to work in a setting with some level of background noise and enjoy extensive teamwork and collaboration.
  3. Make a list of preferences. Do you prefer a workplace to be small or large? Formal or informal? Fast-paced or slow? Do you prefer to work independently or with others?
  4. Now, for a final exercise, choose the five adjectives that best describe your ideal working environment. These will help you better determine your ideal work environment.

How do you learn about the work environment of a company or a general field?

  1. Arrange an informational interview with a professional in the company or in the field and ask them to describe the work culture and what their typical day looks like.
  2. Shadow an individual in the company or field to experience the work environment first hand.
  3. Visit the company’s website and gather information about their size, location, mission and goals.