How office workers cope with distraction by sounds in the open plan office

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The open plan office is a complex sound environment existing of speech, office equipment sounds, sounds from building services and other background sounds. Each type of sound can have a different influence on the performance or well-being of the office workers. Much research reports which sound sources are perceived to be most disruptive or annoying. To some extent, acoustic measures such as sound absorption and screens can be used to reduce the intelligibility of speech or the sound level of noise sources. Nevertheless, office workers need to deal with the acoustic environment they work in. In this research it is investigated which coping strategies are used by office workers for different sounds and how these strategies are perceived to be effective for improving productivity. Questionnaires were distributed among workers in three different companies that have problems with sound. Results show that ‘discussing the noise problem with colleagues’ is perceived as the most effective strategy when intelligible speech is the problem. Less effective, but more often applied, are so-called avoidance strategies such as ‘put work off’ and ‘interrupt work’, which is striking. Ear plugs are only perceived to be effective when speech is unintelligible or other sounds are disturbing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 23rd International Congress on Acoustics
Subtitle of host publicationIntegrating 4th EAA Euroregio 2019
EditorsMartin Ochmann, Vorlander Michael, Janina Fels
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9783939296157
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event23rd International Congress on Acoustics - Aachen, Germany
Duration: 9 Sept 201913 Sept 2019


Conference23rd International Congress on Acoustics


  • Coping
  • Open Plan Office


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