Many employees will spend the majority of their day at their workplace. It, therefore, forms an integral part of one’s life. The workplace environment will impact various aspects of an employee’s well-being. A workplace that resonates with positivity will contribute to a healthier environment and a more productive atmosphere. Employers, who expect the maximum from their employees, should consider the work environment and whether positivity is fostered.

In a post-covid world, the office environment has changed dramatically; for the most part, these changes are positive, and hybrid working environments have become the norm. According to, the workplace can be divided into various categories: traditional, open office, activity-based and bookable space are the most common.

Traditional work environments are those with a physical space where employees may be required to clock in and out at particular times. The traditional work environment is popular because it ensures employers can exercise a degree of control over what their employees are doing but also promotes teamwork and employee engagement. It has been said that this work environment model may help certain employees maintain a better work-life balance, depending on personality types.

Open office environments refer to those with an open floor plan aimed at maximising communication within the company. It breaks the divide between management and employee and is considered a more modern workplace model. The downside of the open office model is the lack of privacy and increased potential for distractions.

Activity-based workspace allows the employee to choose a workspace where they feel they will be best equipped to complete the tasks required of them. This is a departure from the need to allocate a specific place the employee should be. This is referred to as an adaptive work environment to promote flexibility and improve employee comfort, which may promote productivity depending on circumstances. Agile working environments further promote employee independence as it is up to them to question what place and time they require to best do their job. Office neighbourhoods are a grouping of a class of employees with similar or the same job functions and activities. This workspace type also includes the home-office workspace, which allows employees to execute their duties from home.

Lastly, bookable spaces provide employees with a particular space. Employees will also be provided with the tools required to complete their tasks for a particular day.

One of the most significant challenges employers face with the developing workspace is their interaction with their employees. The change in the work-space environment has developed while management/employee interaction remains unchanged. The way in which managers interact with their employees should be considered, depending on the work-space model.

Not only should interaction be frequent, but it should also have a purpose. The following dos and don’ts may give some guidance to employers:

  • Do give regular feedback to employees and let them know where they have improved and where they are falling short. This might be overlooked by managers who have limited contact with their employees.
  • Do give compliments. If someone has done something well, give them recognition – even if they’re working from home.
  • Do be transparent with your employees. A reduction in the amount of interaction can leave employees uncertain about the state of the organisation or whether they are still performing adequately. Be honest and transparent.
  • Do get to know your employees. Get to know your employee’s personal circumstances. You will be better equipped to assist employees who may be struggling with personal issues.
  • Don’t patronise employees or give insincere feedback. Be honest with your feedback and point out areas of concern. Make your interactions purposeful.
  • Don’t criticise in front of others. Negative comments or feedback should be made in private. Humiliating employees rarely produces positive results.
  • Don’t put people down. Negative feedback should never be personal.
  • Don’t assume people know they are performing well. Even the top performers need to hear that their efforts are being noticed.

In an environment where employers have the right to demand their employees perform to reasonable standards, using the whip doesn’t always yield the best results. Communication and dialogue are indispensable. A kind word of encouragement may avoid a poor-work performance process and wasted time and effort enforcing performance.

Article by: Gordon Flanagan
Dispute Resolution Official – CEO Cape Town