The Elevator’s Role in the Workplace is Far More Significant Than You Might Think

From the ‘elevator pitch’, to the propinquity effect, passenger lifts have influenced businesses on many levels.

Some of the world’s leading businesses are utilising the unique social situations and psychological effects of elevator travel to shape the way employees think, feel and work. Not least Google, who are rumored to use lifts to encourage creative collaboration in their New York offices. Inspired by these examples, we started thinking about how elevators could be used to enhance more businesses…

How elevators shape human behaviour

The humble elevator is easy to overlook, but they’ve been shaping human behaviour for years. If you need proof of the long standing cultural and social significance of lifts, you need to look no further than this hilarious clip from a 1962 episode of American prank show, Candid Camera. This episode used elevators to test Polish psychologist Solomon Asch’s research on conformity.

This was first brought to light in the late 1940’s, when psychologists Leon Festinger, Stanley Schachter, and sociologist Kurt Back began devised a theory called the ‘Propinquity Effect’. They summarised that physical space was the key to forming connections with people. In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and later adopted similar attitudes.

Some of the world’s biggest businesses have been designing their workspaces with the relationship-building Propinquity Effect in mind. And that’s where elevator installation comes in. Elevators offer the perfect chance to meet in this way, for colleagues to influence each other, communicate and collaborate in a casual environment, it will also help social and working relationships grow organically.

How passenger lifts impact businesses

Lifts are much more than simple ways of transporting employees from floor to floor quickly and effectively. To some they are a moment of awkward silence, yet to others they represent an opportunity.

We’re talking of course about the ‘elevator pitch’, a time tested way of getting ahead in your career. It is a way of pitching your ideas or promoting your services with such succinctness and efficiency that it lasts no longer than a few floors’ ride. The name derives from the scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If your pitch is interesting enough, it could lead to an exchange in business cards. Essentially, the elevator pitch was a way of networking, pre-networking. But collaborative relationships aren’t just built inside the elevator, as the below example proves.

Google might be an innovative forward-thinking company, but the elevators in their New York office are notoriously slow. This should be a problem right? Well, Google has combated this by encouraging workers to use ladders and corridors. This in encourages people from different departments to engage with colleagues they wouldn’t normally come into contact with, and in turn generate innovative ideas. They called this ‘casual collision’.

How your business can benefit from elevator installation?

This innovative thinking and attention to detail is often credited to industry giants like Google and Pixar. During his time at the latter, Steve Jobs used passenger lifts to encourage interfloor communication. By arranging meetings and travel routes in such a way that staff had to pass through different departments to their own, Jobs encouraged staff to mingle and collaborate.

Today, it’s not only the presence of lifts that businesses are utilising, but the type of lift. According to Premier Platform Lifts, many businesses are using bespoke elevator installation to harness outside the box ideas in the workplace. Installing glass lifts or lifts with comfortable seating can be used to encourage mindfulness and reduce stress. In this way, elevators can provide a number of literally uplifting experience in a stressful work environment.

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break. With a background in PR working in Los Angeles and Barcelona, Charlotte has been working hard running Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden for the past 4 years. Dried mangos, Starbucks and runs through Hyde Park get this Londoner through the day.

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