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Environmental Demands

Structure & Predictability

Some work environments are fairly structured and predictable, while other work environments are less structured and less predictable. 

What does it mean if the work environment is structured and predictable? 

It means you generally know what your work day will look like before going in each day.  You will usually know what to expect each day:

  • You will probably know what tasks you are doing ahead of time.
  • You will probably know when and in what order you are doing these tasks.
  • You will probably know where you are doing these tasks.
  • You will probably know how long most of these tasks will take.
  • You will probably know who you will be working with or near.

Keep this in mind:  Even if you are working in a fairly structured and predictable environment,there might be days where everything seems less organized, less predictable, or even out of control.  No job is 100% predictable or controllable.


What does it mean if the work environment is less structured and less predictable? 

It means you might not be able to predict exactly what the work day will "look" like.  You will usually not know what to expect each day:

  • You might not know what tasks you are doing ahead of time.
  • You might not know the order in which you will be doing these tasks.
  • You might not know where you are doing some of these tasks. For example, you might be in different work stations, different offices, or in different customers’ homes.
  • You might not know how long some of these tasks will take.
  • You might not know who you will be working with if you are in an "In the Scene" customer-service job.

Keep this in mind:  Even if you are working in a less structured and less predictable environment, it does not mean that you are out of control.  It just means you might have to build in more structure and supports to help you.  There are MANY strategies you can use to be successful in these environments.

Below is a chart showing where certain jobs usually fall in the range of structure and predictability. 

HIGHER structure and predictability MODERATE structure & predictability LOWER structure and predictability

Baggage Handler
Bus Driver
Computer Programmer
Data Entry Clerk
Farm Worker
Filing Clerk
Mail Room Worker
Medical Laboratory Technician
Nursery / Plant Worker
Office Clerk
Production Line Worker
Stock Clerk

Accountant Assistant
Artist / Illustrator
Computer Repair and Maintenance Worker
Construction Worker
Graphic Designer
Home Health Aide Worker
House Painter
Landscaper / Groundskeeper
Library Assistant
Pharmacy Technician
Restaurant Kitchen Helper
Video Game Designer
Web Developer

Bank Teller
Bus Boy
Computer Support Specialist
Grocery Bagger 
Research Assistant
Tour Guide
Veterinary Technician
Waiter / Waitress


Sometimes, your job may require you to tolerate certain environmental demands that you do not like. No work environment is perfect all the time. Everyone has to cope with certain job-related environmental demands.

How can you cope with less-structured and unpredictable environments? You might need to ask your supervisor for permission before using some of these strategies. You may also need help from a job coach or other support person to arrange some of these strategies:

Use and write in a monthly calendar.
Use and write in a weekly calendar.
Use scheduling systems on your cellular phone (Blackberry, iPhone, Palm, etc…).
Use a Personal Digital Assistant (P.D.A.).
Use computerized scheduling systems (Outlook or Google calendars).

Make a checklist of tasks to complete each day.
Use a picture schedule showing the sequence of tasks.
Request written down instructions to accompany verbal instructions.
Request written down instructions instead of verbal instructions.

Ask for only one task to complete at a time.
Use a timer, watch, or liquid timer to know when to start and end tasks.
Work in a separate work area, table, desk, or cubicle.

Use specifically labeled trays, folders, shelves to keep your materials in one place and organized.
Use a left-to- right work system (using folders, bins, shelves, boxes).

It is important to learn coping strategies and techniques so you will keep the job you want.  Go to the Coping Section for help