Today’s office buildings adopt open-plan settings for collaboration and space efficiency. However, the open plan setting has been intensively criticized for its adverse user experiences, such as noise, privacy loss, and over cooling. The provision of personal control in open-plan work environments is an important means to alleviating the adverse perceptions. This research is to investigate the relationship between the availability of personal controls and the degree of control over the physical environment, as well as their effectiveness in alleviating adverse perceptions in open-plan workplaces. The study combined three systematic occupant survey tools and collected responses from open-plan offices in Shenzhen, China. Specifically, this survey covered 12 personal controls in open-plan workplaces; respondents were asked to report their degree of control over the physical environment and also were required to report if they had adverse perceptions such as sick building syndrome in their offices. The results showed that most of the 12 personal controls supported perceived degree of control over the physical environment but only half of them were negatively associated with adverse perceptions. Non-mechanical controls, such as windows and blinds, were found to be more effective than mechanical controls such as fans and air-conditioning in alleviating adverse perceptions. Conflicts were found between task/desk lights and other personal controls. The research generates important evidence for the interior design of open-plan offices.
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