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Environment refers to the physical environment and surroundings (noise, light, space, air quality, etc.), information, job aids, and work tools available to the individual while performing their tasks. The Environment factor will affect how an individual can use their functional skills to perform tasks. As an example, if someone is happy working in a quiet office and some local construction project creates noise, thus distracting or irritating the person, they will not be able to use their functional skills as effectively, and so their Capabilities will suffer. Psychological safety and social aspects are not considered to be an environmental factor but a Situation factor and so is dealt with elsewhere in the pyramid.

Variabilities of Environments

   Most working environments have been designed to remain consistent over time and to support the average individual’s abilities, however, there are job roles that constantly switch between environments which can have a positive or negative effect on an individual’s ability to perform. For example, a crane operator might have to deal with rain, wind, cold, heat, etc. and this will affect their ability to perform tasks, such as lifting building materials into a construction site, from day to day and location to location.

   In some cases, individuals will be working in hazardous areas which will have an impact on their ability to perform as their safety, and safety of others will be of paramount importance. Unexpected hazards need to be anticipated as part of the planning process, so that avoidable threat to life and limb are eliminated.

Assessing Environments

   Eliminating hazards is of paramount importance and this, along with health and safety, is often regulated. This article does not detail issues related to regulatory compliance and health and safety issues as these are well-established principles that are already managed by organizations. Rather, this article focuses on how environmental issues affect an individual’s ability to perform.

   Individuals are often the best source of information about environmental issues that are distracting their ability to perform. Pulse surveys and employee satisfaction surveys are ways that environmental issues can be exposed as a performance inhibiting factor. In some cases, an environmental assessment is required to observe the workplace to understand the physical factors that might support or hinder an employee’s ability to perform.

   Some of the physical factors that support and impact an individual’s capabilities include:

  • Size of workspace, proximity of coworkers, and access to meeting spaces
  • Privacy, noise level, lighting, ventilation, screen sizes, and ergonomics
  • Ease of use of information systems, machines, and equipment (including safety equipment)
  • Availability and speed to access information and accommodations if required
  • Availability of bathrooms, nutrition, and ability to maintain hydration
Providing an environment that enables performance will directly and positively impact performance.