What are working conditions? (20 factors that define them)

Updated 30 September 2022

It's easy to think of working conditions as a matter that concerns employees, but workplace conditions can be a large factor in a business's success. Many aspects contribute to working conditions. Understanding what contributes to an employee's working conditions can help employers comply with legislation and help employees better understand their rights. In this article, we answer, 'What are working conditions?' and explore 20 factors that influence them.

Related: Guide: how to build trust in the workplace in 13 steps

What are working conditions?

Working conditions are the physical and psychological conditions that workers are exposed to while working. Conditions in a workplace can encompass everything from the working environment to an employee's terms and conditions of employment. In turn, working conditions can significantly impact employees' health and safety, mental well-being and productivity, and this can directly affect an employer's bottom line.

Related: How to measure employee engagement and why it's important

The importance of working conditions

It's in the employer's best interests to ensure that their conditions of employment and work environments meet certain conditions. Another reason for employers to pay attention to the working conditions they provide is the extensive legislation that governs working conditions. Working conditions are often a key determinant when looking for work. If offered two similar positions, most people would accept the role that has better working conditions. Businesses that need to attract highly skilled and knowledgable staff often compete to offer the best working conditions.

Related: Employee retention: definition, strategies and benefits

20 factors that determine working conditions

Here are 20 elements that can contribute to an employee's working conditions:

1. Physical environment

This can include everything from office layout and design to noise, cleanliness and safety precautions. Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that the physical environment is free from health and safety risks. Measures such as ensuring a comfortable temperature, good lighting and appropriate ventilation can make a big difference to employee comfort and wellbeing.

2. Working hours and patterns

The way work is structured can have a big impact on employee wellbeing. Irregular hours, long shifts and working unsociable hours can all lead to work-life imbalance and have a negative impact on employee satisfaction. UK employers are required to give employees an uninterrupted break of at least 20 minutes if they work more than six hours per day.

Related: 20 common types of employee benefits

3. Wages and salary

The National Living Wage is the minimum amount per hour that workers are entitled to by law. In addition to wages, salary and benefits such as bonuses, pension contributions and healthcare can all impact employees' take-home pay. Employers wanting to attract and retain the best talent need to ensure they offer a competitive salary.

4. Workload

The amount of work an employee is expected to complete in a given period of time can have a big impact on their work and health. A too heavy workload may lead to stress and burnout, while a too light workload risks boredom and feelings of underutilisation. The type of industry an organisation is in and the nature of specific positions often determine what's considered an acceptable workload.

5. Overtime arrangements

Some people enjoy the opportunity to work extra hours and receive overtime pay, but feeling pressured into working excessive hours can have negative consequences. UK employment law states that employers can't compel their employees to work more than 48 hours per week. If an employee is happy to work more than 48 hours, they can opt-out of the 48-hour limit by signing an agreement with their employer.

Related: What is the minimum expectation for full-time hours?

6. Holiday entitlement

The amount of holiday entitlement an employee receives and how employers manage holiday requests can have a big impact on how employees feel about their job and employer. Employees are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday per year. Known as statutory leave entitlement or annual leave, this equates to 28 days for someone working full time.

7. Employee benefits

As well as salary, employers may offer their employees a range of benefits. These can include things like private healthcare, gym memberships, company cars and share schemes. Employee benefits can be a crucial factor in how attractive a job is and staff retention.

8. Support for working parents

Offering on-site or subsidised childcare can make a big difference to working parents. This type of family-friendly benefit can help attract and retain top talent and show an employer's commitment to supporting employees with young children. Employers that don't have childcare facilities may find it easier to recruit and retain employees with childcare responsibilities by offering flexibility around working hours.

9. Interpersonal relationships

The way employees interact with their colleagues, managers and clients can have a big impact on job satisfaction. A positive working environment where employees feel respected and supported is more likely to lead to high levels of job satisfaction. Employers can encourage positive interpersonal relationships by investing in training and development programmes that promote teamwork and communication.

Related: What does collaboration mean in the workplace?

10. Inclusion and diversity

Feeling included and valued in the workplace is crucial to job satisfaction. A diverse workforce can bring different perspectives and skills to an organisation, but it's important that all employees feel included and respected. Employers can promote inclusion and diversity by ensuring their recruitment practices are fair, offering flexible working arrangements and being mindful of unconscious bias.

11. Managerial support

Conflicts with managers are one of the most common causes of job dissatisfaction. Employees who feel that their managers trust and support them are more likely to be satisfied with their job. Managers can support their team by being approachable, setting clear expectations and providing feedback.

12. Employee assistance programmes (EAPs)

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are designed to help employees manage personal and work-related problems. Offering an EAP can show employees that their employer is committed to their well-being. EAPs can include counselling services, financial advice and legal support.

13. Communication

Employees who feel informed and involved in decision-making are more likely to be satisfied with their job. Poor communication is often at the root of job dissatisfaction. Employers can improve communication by being clear and concise in their communications, providing regular updates and encouraging employees to give feedback.

Related: A comprehensive guide to workplace communication styles

14. Training

Training is an important part of professional development and maintaining good working conditions. Employees who feel that their employer is investing in their development are also more likely to be satisfied with their job. Employers who offer continued training may benefit from increased employee engagement and retention.

15. Progression and development opportunities

Opportunities for progression and development can be very important for employees who want to progress in their careers. Employees who feel unable to progress in their careers may become dissatisfied with their job and look for work elsewhere. Employers can create progression and development opportunities by investing in training and development programmes and providing mentorship programmes.

16. Company culture

Company culture is the set of values, behaviours and beliefs that define an organisation. A positive company culture can advance job satisfaction, while negative company culture can lead to job dissatisfaction. Employers can promote positive company culture by establishing clear company values, communicating openly and regularly, and being open to feedback.

Related: What is workplace culture, and what are its characteristics?

17. Disciplinary procedures

While disciplinary procedures are essential, they can lead to poor working conditions if they are not handled carefully. A dismissal that's deemed unfair can result in costly legal action. Ensuring that disciplinary procedures are fair, transparent and applied consistently is vital to maintaining a good working environment.

18. The consequences of making a mistake

Making a mistake at work can be stressful in the best circumstances. A culture of fear and blame may cause employees to hide mistakes, which can lead to more serious problems. Employees who feel that they can learn from their mistakes without being punished are more likely to be happy with their working conditions.

19. Occupational stress

Occupational stress can lead to absenteeism, reduced productivity and increased staff turnover. Employers can help reduce stress levels by providing support and resources, promoting a healthy work-life balance, and encouraging open communication. Highly stressful occupations may benefit from stress management programmes.

20. Job security

Job security is often linked to job satisfaction. The fear of losing one's job can be a big source of stress for employees. Employers can promote job security by offering contracts, ensuring job descriptions are up to date, and providing opportunities for regular feedback.


Explore more articles

  • What does a manager on duty do? Responsibilities and skills
  • A guide to becoming a care assistant with no experience
  • How to become a spin instructor in the UK: a guide
  • How to get into politics: a comprehensive career guide
  • Mechanic apprentice job profile: complete guide
  • What does a stock controller do? (Responsibilities and FAQs)
  • How To Become a Ghostwriter in 8 Steps (Plus Salary Info)
  • Qualifications for a librarian: everything you need to know
  • How to become an army officer (with roles and requirements)
  • How to become a sound designer
  • Email Examples: How to Respond to an Employer Interview Request
  • How to become an HGV driver in 8 steps (With skills)