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Privacy and communication in an open-plan office: A case study

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Abstract

As two departments moved from conventional offices at corporate headquarters to a nearby open plan office, 70 employees at five job levels completed a questionnaire before and after the move. The lowest levels (secretaries) moved from free‐standing desks to partially enclosed work spaces; those at middle level II left double offices for single, doorless enclosures. The highest levels (III & IV) left private offices for individual enclosures in open plan. Acoustical tests were also performed at both facilities in Basking Ridge, NJ. They were made in the open office areas at Mt. Airy Rd. and between enclosed offices at North Maple Ave. As predicted, the index of satisfaction with privacy was highest for those at level III and IV before the move. Afterward, it declined, despite the fact that under normal operating conditions, the Mt. Airy open office environment had significantly less distracting noise and better speech privacy then comparable offices at North Maple Ave. Those employees at secretarial and lower management levels (11), whose physical enclosure had improved, were more satisfied.

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