What Is Work Culture? Definition, Elements and Examples

Updated August 21, 2023

When deciding where to apply for jobs, most people look for an atmosphere that affirms their goals and values through a healthy work culture. Every workplace has a unique environment that forms over time through the interactions of the people who work there. The workplace influences individuals and vice versa, so it's important to seek a company where you see the potential for growth. In this article, we explain what a work culture is by providing an overview of the elements and importance of a healthy culture in the workplace.

Read more: What Is Culture Fit? (And How to Assess It in Interviews)

What is work culture?

Workplace culture is a collection of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment. Healthy company cultures align employee behaviours and company policies with company goals. They also consider the well-being of individuals. The culture of a company determines how well a person fits into their new job environment and their ability to build professional relationships with colleagues. Your attitude, work-life balance, growth opportunities and job satisfaction all depend on the culture of your workplace.

Elements of a healthy company culture

Workplace culture is a complex concept that evolves in the workplace based on many elements. Some people may value a more traditional work environment, while others want something more modern and fun. When looking for a job, it's important to know yourself as an employee and find a company whose culture fits with your workplace values. A company that aligns with your beliefs is likely to be a place that values your contributions. All thriving workplaces have many traits in common. Look for these signs of prospering company culture when considering possible employers:


When each person who works at a company is accountable for their behaviour, it indicates a healthy work environment. A balanced workplace enables people to feel comfortable enough to take credit for their ideas and their mistakes. Open accountability allows each employee to learn from challenges instead of avoiding them. Accountability fosters an environment based on teamwork, open communication, trustworthiness and responsibility.


Companies that treat their employees fairly often have healthy environments. Every position within an organization has value. Giving everyone opportunities boosts employee morale. Favouritism in the workplace is a sign of a toxic workplace. It may cause distrust and resentment between coworkers. Thus, making an equitable workplace environment essential.

Related: Ways to Communicate Company Culture to Team Members


People are generally happier, more productive and more focused when they feel able to express themselves in the workplace. If employees have some freedom in their style and how they decorate their workspace, it indicates a level of comfort within the office. For example, some offices might decide to have a casual dress code that allows employees to wear what makes them feel most comfortable.


A thriving workplace has effective and clear communication between its employees. Executive employees can develop direct lines of communication with the rest of the staff. Teamwork flourishes when employees have open communication with their supervisors and team members. It also helps teammates keep one another accountable to contribute to an equitable workplace.

Related: 8 Common Communication Problems and How to Address Them


A thriving workplace recognizes employee successes and rewards people when they do well. Management in a healthy work environment looks for positive attributes of everyone on the team. Employee recognition builds a culture of appreciation and mutual respect.

Related: How To Show Recognition for Employees (With Examples)

Importance of a positive work culture

Elements of a thriving company culture work together to create several benefits for the business and employees. These benefits show the importance of fostering a positive culture in the workplace, including:

Better hiring choices

Hiring managers and human resources professionals at a healthy company know what values and traits to look for in new employees, leading to better hiring choices. If you're applying for jobs, you'll likely feel drawn to companies that hold similar values as you do. Flourishing companies have like-minded employees with compatible workplace values. They have the ability to work harmoniously with one another.

Related: Describing Your Ideal Culture in a Corporate Environment

Employee happiness

Employee happiness is another benefit of a healthy working environment. Your satisfaction with the place you work has a direct impact on your happiness with your job. While a toxic workplace might lead to unhappiness, a healthy one supports the happiness of all its employees. Taking pride in your work and feeling as though your position is meaningful contributes to employee happiness as well. Companies with happy employees typically have a good balance between work and personal life. The employee feels empowered to continue their life outside the workplace.

Related: Ideal Working Environment Components (With Benefits)

Employee retention

When a company prioritizes the well-being of its staff, employee retention increases. Toxic work environments usually have high turnover rates since people don't have a strong desire to stay. A healthy company provides stability and opportunities to grow in the organization. This leads to happy employees, incentivized to stay at the company long term as a direct result of the company's culture.

Related: How to Learn More About a Company's Culture

Performance quality

Employees satisfied with the culture of their company have a higher quality of performance. The atmosphere motivates them to work hard, collaborate with team members and communicate with managers when they need help. A positive working environment celebrates accomplishments, which further encourages employees to strive for success in their positions.

Related: 12 Ways to Create a Learning Culture in the Workplace


Companies with a healthy workplace tend to have a strong reputation in the corporate world. This reputation helps attract high-quality, successful professionals who want to feel supported by the company where they work. A renowned company might also have loyal employees who help recruit other impressive candidates, furthering the company's good reputation.

Related: Job Search Guide: Finding Companies That Value Diversity and Inclusion

What factors impact work culture?

The culture in a workplace evolves based on the behaviours of the people within the organization, from management to entry-level employees. Company leadership sets the tone for company culture through its policies, benefits and mission. Managers shape company culture from their hiring practices, where they can select applicants whose personal vision aligns with a healthy work environment. The physical environment of a workplace also influences culture, with many offices opting for an open floor plan, natural lighting and the inclusion of perks such as in-office gyms and break room amenities.

It's important for company leaders to understand what work culture is and how various workplace elements work together to create the work environment, including their own influence. Here are some examples of factors that impact the workplace:


Management has a large influence on the culture of a company, especially since they create policies, hire employees and facilitate training. The health of a business reflects the abilities of the management team to successfully lead their employees to success. For example, imagine a company had a toxic workplace with several managers who displayed favouritism. Human resources decided to replace the management team with people who displayed teamwork and fairness. Eventually, the company's employee culture shifts to match the values of the new management team.

Related: How To Improve Your Management Skills

Values, mission and vision

The values, mission and vision communicated to employees impact the culture of a company significantly. The mission and vision demonstrate what the company seeks to accomplish and how they plan to accomplish it. Typically, the values are the foundation of company practices and procedures. While the values, mission and vision of a business might seem immaterial, they affect how employees think and act concerning the company.

For example, imagine a nonprofit's vision statement, "To advocate for inclusion and opportunity for every person, both locally and globally." The values of inclusion and opportunity appear in the nonprofit's culture through nondiscriminatory employment practices and opportunities for professional development. The nonprofit's adherence to the vision statement reflects a healthy workplace culture.

Related: How To Use Organizational Culture To Find the Perfect Job

Workplace practices

The practices and procedures developed and implemented can influence a company's culture since they dictate how employees act in the workplace. Employees learn how the office functions by understanding workplace practices. Even social conventions, like workplace traditions, impact the culture formed within an organization.

For example, consider a company that places value on integrating new hires into the company. For the first few weeks, a new hire meets with several people in the organization to get to know others and feel comfortable in the office. This work culture practice shows the new hire that the company prioritizes their experience in the workplace and values building relationships between colleagues.

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