8 Steps to Elevator Etiquette

I f you stay at a hotel property within or near the center of a city, chances are that the building is at least several stories tall — and more likely than not that the elevator may not operate as fast as you prefer…

…and during busy times of the day when many people are wanting to use the elevators simultaneously, wait times can increase exponentially.

8 Steps to Elevator Etiquette

I stepped into an elevator recently to go from the ground floor to an upper floor of the building. Just as the doors were closing, two men —perhaps in their late 20s or early 30s and seemingly perfectly healthy — rushed aboard the elevator as the doors were closing and were not carrying anything. The first man pressed the button for the second floor when the other man said that they needed to go to the first floor.

“I would have skipped the elevator altogether if I only had to ascend one flight of stairs,” I thought to myself. I am thankful that I have two good legs which work well. Was using the elevator to go up one floor really necessary — and with an unnecessary stop at another floor before the occupants of the elevator get to their floors?

I thought about other forms of elevator etiquette which would have the process be more efficient if everyone followed them.

1. Step Aside.

When waiting for the elevator, step over to the side to allow anyone who may be on the elevator to step out before entering the elevator…

…and if there is a line to use the elevator, take your rightful place in that line. Do not cut in front of other people. In fact, that act may get you unintentionally in the rear of the elevator, which might slow down your egress if too many people are in the way when the elevator arrives at your desired floor.

If you are aboard the elevator, please keep away from the door if at all possible so that you do not block the egress or ingress of elevator passengers.

Stepping aside also means moving to the back of the elevator — especially if you plan to be one of the last people to leave the elevator…

…and if you cannot move past the door opening of the elevator, the please temporarily leave the elevator to allow other people to exit before stepping back into the elevator.

2. Use the Stairs, If Possible

Climbing stairs is one form of exercise which is good for you — especially while traveling. If you only need to go up or down one or two flights of stairs, please consider doing so.

I have been know to go up or down several flights of stairs instead of using the elevator — and I often find that I am faster than the elevator.

3. Take Care to Press the Proper Buttons


Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Whether trying to decide whether to press the Up or Down buttons while waiting for an elevator — or deciding on which floor to choose — please take an extra second or two to select the right buttons so that other users of the elevator are not uncessarily inconvenienced.

If you are a parent and have a young child, please do not allow him or her to press most or all of the buttons once inside the elevator. That course of action only slows it down significantly and is not considerate to the time of other uses.

4. When to Press the Open Door or Close Door Buttons

If someone is approaching the elevator, should you press the Open Door button to ensure that that person gets to board? That depends: if the elevator is at or near capacity, holding that door open for the convenience of one person may simultaneously inconvenience a dozen or so people and might not be a good idea…

….but not using the button to hold the door open — or using the Close Door button to purposely keep the other person out when you are alone and not in a hurry can be perceived as just plain mean.

Do not hold the door open for an extended period of time for someone whose intention is not to immediately board the elevator. You do not know how many people might be waiting for it to arrive.

Take a moment to assess the situation and decide which course of action is the better one to take.

5. Offer to Press Buttons for Someone Else

Sometimes an elevator can get so crowded that some people cannot press the buttons for the floor at which they want to stop…

…or if you need someone to press a button for you, please treat that person with respect and ask politely instead of grunting orders.

6. Respect the Personal Space of Other People

Elevators are tight quarters. Thankfully, we do not have to spend much time in them — but if there is only one other person in the elevator, do not stand right next to that person; and do not touch that person. You never know if that person is allergic to something which you may be wearing — or perhaps you are simply causing that person to feel uncomfortable.

That garlic and onion sandwich you had for lunch can be as unpleasant on your breath as underarm deodorant failing. The farther away from someone you are, those odors you might be emitting may be less of an impediment to their comfort and personal space…

..and by the way: others inside of the elevator do smell that flatulence which you thought you snuck by them.

Fidgeting or otherwise moving too much can also cause fellow passengers of the elevator to feel discomfort. If you are one of those people who fidgets or constantly moves, try to be cognizant and aware of what you are doing; and try to stop for a minute or two.

7. Do Not Speak, If Possible

For some strange reason, people like to stare at the indicator which shows at which floor the elevator is approaching. Unless you feel the need to start a conversation, more often than not, engaging with other people in the elevator is typically uncomfortable for them — especially as they are staring at that floor indication.

If you are with a colleague, please keep your voice at a low volume and speak at a minimum. No one wants to hear about that business contract you just landed; and rarely is there a conversation that cannot wait until leaving the elevator…

…and similarly as aboard an airplane during a flight, please do not use your mobile telephone to carry on a conversation while inside of an elevator. Again, there are few conversations that cannot wait until you leave the elevator.

Also, please do not hum, whistle, tap or cause any other type of distraction while inside of an elevator with other people…

…and most of all, speaking in a different language does not guarantee privacy of your conversation, as two women whom I did not know thought they were doing when inexplicably speaking disparaging things about me in French in front of me while in an elevator. As they left the elevator, they were embarrassed when I gave them a choice parting phrase in French which they knew that I understood their conversation . What they did was simply rude — no matter what language they used.

8. Exiting the Elevator

Leave the elevator as quickly as possible; and do not be too concerned about such forms of etiquette as allowing someone else to leave first — unless that person is already leaving the elevator. The object is to have as many people spend less time in the elevator overall as possible; but without being rude or pushy.


The two men certainly had every right to use the elevator whenever they want — even if only to travel up or down one floor — and in the grand scheme of things, only a minute or so of my time was wasted with the extra unnecessary stop from the wrong button which was accidentally pushed…

…but what if the elevator was crowded and several people pressed the wrong buttons or only wanted to go up or down a floor or two? What if there were 40 floors in the building? What if you were aboard that elevator?

While these issues are not exactly a top priority, rexpecting the time of other people is usually a good practice which should be formed into a habit. You might notice that many of the tips posted in this article are similar to many of those pertaining to airplanes and mass transportation systems…

…and here is where you come in: I can only imagine some of the stories and experiences you have; so please post your elevator pitch in the Comments section below. Thank you in advance.

All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

4 thoughts on “8 Steps to Elevator Etiquette”

  1. Kitt Katt says:

    As always, your topics are interesting…always something a bit different. I never know what to expect from you and I like that! Your thoughtful opinions and ideas are much appreciated as well. As for elevator etiquette, your ideas are very sensible. Thanks for bring up the idea of using stairs…I do follow your advice, and it is actually tied to elevator etiquette, although I hadn’t thought of it in that way. In my opinion, greeting a fellow elevator rider is a nice gesture…just a hello or good morning….I am a very social person, so I understand others might not feel comfortable . In my experience, even in non English speaking countries, and perhaps more so, a cheerful hello goes a very long way!

  2. x says:

    I might have missed it but: “Before entering the elevator, allow those still on it to leave first.”

  3. Mike says:

    Had no idea there were so many potential pitfalls to riding an elevator. When you just stop and think about it, it’s amazing so many of us are still alive.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Well, you do have to admit that using an elevator has its ups and downs, Mike…

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