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The psychology of the open plan office

01 March 2018

Promoting a collaborative workplace while respecting the need for privacy asks designers to evaluate how the workplace environment influences the users.

IT, BNL-BNP PARIBAS Roma Tiburtina, Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia (formerly 5+1AA), Office, Open Plan Office, Rockfon Ekla dB 40, D/AEX edge, 1200x600, white

The architects of the new BNP-BNL Paribas had a grand ambition for both the interior and exterior of the building: A LEED Gold certification.

IT, BNL-BNP PARIBAS Roma Tiburtina, Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia (formerly 5+1AA), Office, Open Plan Office, Rockfon Ekla dB 40, D/AEX edge, 1200x600, white

The Rockfon dB solution that was chosen did not only solve the acoustic challenges of a modern and flexible workplace, it also perfectly fit the minimalistic and modern design of the building itself.

IT, BNL-BNP PARIBAS Roma Tiburtina, Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia (formerly 5+1AA), Office, Open Plan Office, Rockfon Ekla dB 40, D/AEX edge, 1200x600, white

Choosing the right acoustic solution can make the difference between creating a good office or great office environment.

Distracting at best and frustrating at worst

A significant body of research articulates the negative influences that open plan offices can play on employee health, in turn increasing employee turnover. Søren Peter Lund, a senior researcher at the Danish National Research Centre for Working Environment explains: “The lack of privacy in an open plan office makes workers feel like they are constantly being watched and the noises around them might be perceived as a threat as well as an intrusion”. 

The acoustic quality of a room is one of the main factors to take into account when designing spaces that are used for both communicative and cognitive tasks.     

The behavioural influence of noise

According to Behavioural Specialist Mille Sylvest, noise isn’t just a disturbance that makes it hard to concentrate, but rather it can also impair the motivation for greater productivity and collaboration, potentially undermining the very things it was designed to achieve. “A person’s well-being is closely linked to their level of satisfaction with their own status in an organisation. The quality of the workplace is a proxy marker of that status. So a noisy environment is a low-status one, which negatively affects a person’s well-being and affects a person's behaviour,” says Sylvest.

Coupling collaboration and privacy

Designing offices involves designing for human interaction, supporting collaboration and concentration. As Lennart Nilsson, one of Sweden’s foremost acousticians says: “In offices, the need for good sound absorption is especially high when working in open plan offices and for team work that requires cross-functional conversations”.

Explore how to optimise office acoustics, achieving the best combination of high sound absorption and sound insulation.

The lack of privacy in an open plan office makes workers feel like they are constantly being watched.

Søren Peter Lund

Senior researcher at the Danish National Research Centre for Working Environment

Sound insulation

Reducing the level of distraction and the harmful effects of noise, while still creating a flexible, private and engaging environment, can be a challenge. Our dB products combine the benefits of great sound insulation and superior sound absorption.

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About Rockfon

We provide customers with a complete ceiling system offer, combining stone wool ceiling panels with suspension grids and accessories. Our ceiling systems are a fast and simple way to create beautiful, comfortable spaces. Easy to install and durable, they protect people from noise and the spread of fire while making a constructive contribution toward a sustainable future.

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