Badly designed elevator buttons are costing the businesses in my building £750,000 a year

The offending buttons…

Last week I started renting a desk on the first floor at WeWork Moorgate (a coworking space) and within a couple of hours I’d noticed a problem:

The lifts (or elevators depending on which side of the pond you hail from) are those fancy new ones where you enter the floor on a touchpad before you get in. The trouble is, the tap targets on the buttons are just a bit too small.

That’s right, this is a story about tap targets. Tap targets!

Every time I’d try to call the lift I’d accidentally select at least one other floor and then would have to suffer the shame of the lift going the other direction stopping and everyone inside glaring at me as no-one got in.

For a bit of fun over lunch (yes, this is how I have fun) I decided to try and figure out how much time is being wasted waiting for these inadvertently called lifts due to the fiddly buttons.

This is very much a back of an envelope calculation with a bunch of assumptions so take it with a pinch of salt.

Caveats registered, let’s begin.

First we know that there are roughly 2,400 people in the building. This roughly equates to 9,600 lift journeys a day (arriving, leaving and going for lunch) as very few people have desks on the ground floor.

The capacity of the lifts in the building is 20 people and while they’re pretty full a lot of the time sometimes you’ll get the odd solo journey. I’m therefore assuming that when a lift is running on average there’s 6 people in the lift at any one time and 6 people waiting for it on another floor.

If the floor destination of the people in the lift is uniformly distributed (unlikely as I’m sure the density of desks on 7 is higher) then on average half of the people will experience the unnecessary stop i.e. 3 people.

All of the people waiting for the lift will be delayed by the unnecessary stop adding another six so we have a total of 9 people affected when the wrong button is pressed.

We can assume that roughly 1 in 5 lift journeys include an unwanted stop due to the touchpad (in my experience it’s more like 1 in 2 but I probably just have fat fingers). This means that roughly 2,880 people per day end up waiting either in or for a lift due to a wrong button being pressed.

If we assume that the extra stop makes the journey 20 seconds longer then as a building people are spending an extra 16 hours a day uneccesarily waiting for lifts. That’s already pretty shocking but if you think that most people work around 200 days a year that means that a staggering 133 days a year is lost from WeWork Moorgate because of the lift buttons.

As I mentioned earlier there are 2,400 people in the building, who if they followed the same 9am – 5pm, 200 days a year work pattern would work 3.84 million hours a year. That means that roughly 0.083% of time in WeWork Moorgate is wasted waiting for wrongly called lifts.

We know the average turnover of a UK business in London is £560,000. It’s likely that the businesses in WeWork Moorgate are a bit smaller than this but there’s no figures for them and the office do contain the London division of two European unicorns - BlaBlaCar and Skyscanner so maybe it all comes out in the wash.

Assuming that WeWork Moorgate isn’t too far from the London average we can use the fact that 0.083% of the time spent in the building is wasted on waiting for wrongly called lifts and that there are 1600 companies in the building to calculate that the slightly-too-small tap targets are costing the businesses based here a whopping £743,680 a year.

I guess they really should fix those buttons.

Anyway, just a bit of fun — feel free to poke holes in my numbers and assumptions. Also, WeWork have already been in touch with the lift contrator about fixing the buttons so I’ll be expecting my 10% cut any day…

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