Employees were more likely to use stairs in a building with innovative "skip-stop" elevator design, according to this study of one strategy intended to "push" employees to incorporate more physical activity into their work day. This article is included in a supplement to the Journal of Public Health Policy regarding the 2008 Active Living Research Conference.
Stair climbing can be a low-cost way for people to add exercise to their day but unappealing, inconvenient stairways can discourage workers from bypassing the elevator. A new California high-rise office offered the opportunity for a "natural experiment" to promote stair use. One side of the building was serviced by a traditional elevator bank and enclosed fire stair; but the other featured an open, appealing stairway and five special elevators: one that stopped on every floor, reserved for those with a special access card due to a disability, and four elevators programmed to stop only on every third floor ("skip-stop"), requiring nondisabled workers to take the open stairs to walk up or down one flight to reach the floors where the elevator did not stop. During the 24-week experiment, technology monitored usage of each stairway.
Implementing this same arrangement in other structures may be comparatively difficult; this California building had a unique layout and served a single tenant whose security and work patterns could accommodate the open flow between floors. The open stairway also required a variance from fire codes; however, skip-stop elevators could still be implemented in existing buildings that have a nearby fire stair. The practice does appear to offer significant potential for pushing workers into using the stairs more during their work day.