Abstract The aim of the present study was to investigate cognitive, emotional, and physiological effects of two open-plan office noise conditions (high noise: 51 LAeq and low noise: 39 LAeq) during work in a simulated open-plan office, followed by four restoration conditions (river movie with sound, only river sound, silence, and office noise) after the work period. Students (N = 47) went through one practice session and two experimental sessions, one each with the low and high noise conditions. In each experimental session they worked for 2 h with tasks involving basic working memory processes. We also took physiological measures of stress (cortisol and catecholamines) and self-reports of mood and fatigue. Analyses indicate that the participants remembered fewer words, rated themselves as more tired, and were less motivated with work in noise compared to low noise. In the restoration phase the participants who saw a nature movie (including river sounds) rated themselves as having more energy after the restoration period in comparison with both the participants who listened to noise and river sounds. Remaining in office noise during the restoration phase also affected motivation more negatively than listening to river sounds or watching the nature movie. The findings bear on the appropriateness of open-plan office designs and the possibilities for restoration available in office settings.