CE26 - Innovation, travail

Transactional approach of fatigue of operators working in open-space offices – FABO


Transactional approach to the fatigue of operators working in open-space offices

Main issues and objectives

The project proposes to deepen the understanding of the onset of fatigue and the work situation experienced by operators working in open offices. Particular attention is paid to older workers. Certain characteristics of noise (mainly the emergence of intelligible speech) are described as increasing the factors of discomfort and fatigue perceived by the operators (SBiB Study, 2010; Pierrette et al., 2014). However, this fatigue varies according to individual characteristics (physiological state, level of anxiety, age, age-related hearing loss, ...) and situational characteristics other than the sound environment (social atmosphere, organisation of the work activity, complexity of the tasks, etc). Thus, a better understanding of the interaction between these individual and situational characteristics, including noise, is necessary. To this end, the project is multidisciplinary and involves researchers specialising in acoustics, psycho-acoustics and ergonomics.

Project proposes to conduct various studies:
- Laboratory studies by INSA Lyon to study the interaction effect between individual characteristics specific to older operators and the noise environment during an experimental task (task 2)
- Field studies to characterise work situations based on the ITAMaMi method (task 1) and with repeated measurements to evaluate the evolution of fatigue over the course of a working day as a function of situational and individual characteristics (task 4)
- Laboratory studies at the INRS in Nancy to investigate the effects of hearing aids on participants performing cognitive tasks (task 3).

Task 1, carried out at the LAPCOS in Nice, consisted of describing the activity, tasks and organisational and architectural characteristics of the workplaces in which we were involved. Thanks to these analyses based on systematic observations and interviews, the items of a questionnaire characterising the work situations could be drawn up (see appendices). This questionnaire could then be deployed during task 4. This work took place in five different companies (two in Lorraine, one in Paris and two in Nice).
For Task 2, an initial experiment was carried out. This was a seriation task (series of 10 digits appearing visually and whose order of appearance had to be retained), in the presence of speech noise of variable intelligibility (5 TSI values between 0.35 and 0.75). 42 participants (young and normal hearing) took part in the experiment. Each participant performed the task in two conditions: in one condition, the signals were modified to simulate an N2 profile hearing loss (mild loss, threshold ranging from 25 dB HL at 1000 Hz to 50 dB HL at 6000 Hz). These modifications were performed by a hearing loss simulator. The results showed that in the simulated hearing loss condition, performance did not depend on the TSI values - in contrast to the normal condition, i.e. normal hearing listeners, for which performance was worse for the maximum TSI value.
For task 3, a laboratory study was set up at INRS. Different sound environments were created by superimposing ambient open office noise and speech noise at different intelligibility levels. Forty-six normal-hearing subjects with simulated hearing losses were recruited for the occasion. Equipped with headphones, they were asked to perform a complex long-term task (about 3 hours) at 4 different signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) (-4, 0, 4 and 8 dB), with and without hearing aids.
For each sound condition (SNR crossover and wearing or not wearing hearing aids), objective (performance) and subjective (fatigue, mental load, annoyance) data were collected. The first results show significant effects of hearing aids on the perception of the sound environment, which is considered more noisy, more annoying and more tiring with hearing aids than without. External load is also rated higher when wearing hearing aids. SNR has a significant effect on performance. Performance was better with a high SNR (8dB) corresponding to speech noise being greater than background noise. Further analysis is needed to better understand the mechanisms behind these differences.

For Task 2, the next steps in the study are
- Conducting speech intelligibility experiments modified by the simulator (to check whether the effect observed here is not simply due to a loss of intelligibility);
- if possible, recruiting real hearing-impaired people to replicate the experiment (in order to check the ability of the simulator to reproduce the psychological effects specific to the seriation task)
- design a new experiment using a task more representative of an office job (but which will require more exposure time).
Task 4 will start in October 2022.

1. Volpe, M., Brocolini, L., & Chevret, P. (2022). Effet des bruits de bureau sur les personnes malentendantes équipées d’aides auditives. Actes du Colloque CFA.

This project investigates effects of interaction between individuals and their environment at work. The majority of individuals working in open-pace offices report an important discomfort due to noise. Researches were conducted since several years by researchers implicated in this project to determine sound environment characteristics responsible for this discomfort. This project proposes to better understand this phenomenon and the work situation by identifying factors for perceived fatigue and by focusing particularly on some individuals characteristics such as attentional capacities and aging. For that, studies in fields and in laboratory are considered.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 436,944 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2021 - 48 Months

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