An elevator can be an uncomfortable environment when the riders do not observe the basic rules of common courtesy. Good elevator etiquette is mostly common sense, but being aware of it will make your elevator rides more comfortable, especially if you encourage others in the building to remember to be conscious of elevator etiquette. As always, the best rule of thumb when you are not sure about how to behave is to treat others as you would wish to be treated.
There are three separate components to elevator etiquette: boarding, riding the elevator, and disembarking. Before hopping on an elevator, you should also think about whether or not you should really be in the elevator. If you are only traveling one or two floors, taking the stairs is more polite, unless you are disabled or you are carrying heavy packages.
Boarding etiquette dictates that you should wait until everyone who is getting off has left the elevator before you step inside. You should not attempt to block the doors of the elevator to hold them open, because this is rude and potentially dangerous. If you are running to greet the elevator, you can politely ask that someone press the “door open” button, but be aware that the occupants of the elevator may decline.
If you are carrying heavy packages or traveling with a big group, you should wait for an empty elevator, or ask if the people in the elevator mind working around your packages or luggage. Likewise, if you are sick, you may want to wait for an empty elevator, and you should carry a handkerchief or tissues to cover your mouth and nose in case you need to sneeze or cough.
Once on the elevator, elevator etiquette experts strongly recommend standing as close to a wall or corner as possible to make room for other riders. You should move to the back of the elevator if you are going a long way, and stay in the front if you plan to get off soon. If you decide to stand in front of the elevator buttons, be prepared to be asked to push buttons for other elevator riders.
While in an elevator, you shouldn't eat, smoke, or talk on your cellphone. Many people prefer to ride an elevator in silence, so if you have to strike up a conversation with someone, keep the topic neutral, and your tone of voice low. If other people in the elevator seem irritated or upset by your conversation, you may want to change the topic or quiet down. Step aside for people getting off the elevator, and be sure not to block the door when the elevator stops.
If you are trapped in the back of a crowded elevator and you need to get off, call out “my floor” to alert other riders to the fact that you wish to get off, and move slowly but firmly through the crowd. If you see someone struggling to get off an elevator, you may want to step out to make room, and then step back in.
The primary focus of elevator etiquette is the goal of keeping everyone comfortable on an elevator, and usually as long as you make a good-faith effort to stay out of the way, you will not offend or upset anyone. If you aren't certain about whether or not a behavior is appropriate in an elevator, ask yourself how comfortable you would be if someone else in the elevator did it first.