What You Need to Know About Workplaces for Employees

Employees meeting in a typical workplace.
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The workplace is the location at which an employee provides work for an employer. That seems like a simple enough explanation, but it can become a bit more complex, especially in today's knowledge economy.

The Changing Face of the Workplace

The workplace is located in a variety of settings including offices, manufacturing facilities or factories, stores, farms, out-of-doors, and in any other location where work is performed.

With the proliferation of electronic communication, employers are no longer expected to always provide a workplace with a physical location at which employees work.

Home offices, telecommuting work arrangements, and worldwide employment relationships mean that almost any location, including the employee's home, may serve as and can accurately be called, a workplace.

What an Employee Needs to Know

Your employer gets to choose your workplace. If an employer provides a physical location for an employee to work, the workplace is subject, in the US, to workplace health and safety regulations and other guidelines provided by the US Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL also regulates a variety of workplace programs, some of which are in effect for workplaces that include an employee’s home office.

Generally, as long as they follow health and safety regulations, your employer can make what might seem like unreasonable demands. Some office spaces are large, and each employee has his or her own private office. It's more likely, though, that you have a cubicle or even share a table with other coworkers. If you prefer to work alone, your employer can say, “no, this is your assigned space.”

Workspaces and the ADA

There are exceptions, however. If you have a health problem that is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you can request a different work environment. For instance, if you suffer from migraines that are exacerbated by bright lights, you can request a dim and quiet workplace.

If it doesn't impose a hardship on your employer and your request is reasonable, they must work with you to come to a solution. The reasonableness depends on the workplace and the job. If you're a waitress in a rock music club, such an accommodation is not reasonable.

Workplaces and OSHA

If your workplace is in a factory, farm, construction site, hospital, or another area where safety is a big concern, your employer needs to put special emphasis on safety. Government officials, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), may closely monitor your workplace.

If you spot a safety issue, bring it to your employer's attention immediately, and if they do not resolve it, contact the relevant government agency.

You can also work at home. Naturally, your boss won't show up at your door and make sure your kid's toys are not posing trip hazards, but they may be obligated to provide you with the necessary work equipment.

What Employers Need to Know

It's your responsibility to provide a safe and productive work environment for your employees. The DOL provides guidance and regulations for the workplace in such areas as workers compensation, breaks, and lunch requirements, leave requirements, inclement weather and other emergencies, equal employment opportunity, as well as unemployment compensation. See the DOL website for a complete list of regulations and guidelines to fulfill employer and workplace requirements.

Besides following safety regulations, employers must also consider other aspects of employees' health and well-being, including stress and sexual harassment.

Designing a Good Work Environment

There are many schools of thought about what makes for the best physical working environment. Standing desks, sitting desks, bright lights, dim lights, and employees always battle over the thermostat. As long as you are in compliance with Federal, state, and local regulations, you are free to design your workplace as you please.

Keep in mind that it's not only the physical workplace that falls on your shoulders; the culture and interpersonal environment are also your responsibility. Keep an environment where you respect all employees and demand that they respect each other.

Bullying in the Workplace

Deal with problems as soon as they arise and nip gossip and bullying in the bud, and your workplace will be a pleasant and safe place to work.

In a dangerous workplace, such as a construction site or farm, you want to be extra careful to keep a safe environment where employees are well trained and well protected. Don't attempt to save money by cutting corners on safety.

The workplace is also known as your employment location, place of employment, and the name of any place of employment, such as an office, factory, or farm.

The information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a worldwide audience, and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.