Let's ask some initial questions:
- Why is it awkward?
- Is it always awkward?
- And if it isn't always awkward what makes one trip awkward and another not?
Let's observe common scenarios:
Friendly coworkers, having a conversation, enter the elevator, and there is no one else in the elevator, is the space awkward? No. This is a clue to what is going on.
A stranger enters and the conversation stops? Why? Does it always happen?
It would stop depending upon the conversation. For instance it would stop:
If a group of guys are talking about a hot girl, or a group of girls talking about a hot guy and if someone walks in the conversation will pause. If an unknown person of the other gender walks in the conversation will come to a dead halt. This is awkward.
If the group is talking about something that is work related and confidential the conversation will stop. This makes it awkward for everyone involved.
If the group is animated about a topic - sports, a movie. The conversation may stop as now others are included in the conversation. Sometimes people continue, not caring that others may be bothered by their conversation and other times the conversation will pause out of consideration.
Why does the conversation stop? I submit it's because the elevator puts us all in one personal space.
And, for the same reason, it's why being in a group of strangers riding an elevator can be somewhat awkward. Notice if you see the same strangers day after day in the elevator it becomes less awkward.
As a UX Designer what can be done about the following scenarios?
- Placing a group of strangers in a small space.
- Inserting a stranger
into a group discussing something that they not inclined to share (or refuse to share).
I don't see any real life solutions to this problem.