In recent years, wellness in the home has emerged as a major trend in the home improvement market, and the COVID-19 pandemic only elevated consumers’ awareness of indoor environments’ significant impact on our physical and mental health. Indeed, for many who spend hours working, studying, cooking and exercising in a single space, wellness features in the home are no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity.
For more insight into the trends shaping today’s homes, we talked with a top industry expert and speaker at the Home Improvement Research Institute’s annual Insights Summit on Sept. 21 – 23. Dr. Jie Zhao is executive vice president and head of Delos, a wellness real estate and technology company based out of New York. Jie leads the research and development team (Delos Labs) to create innovative solutions for improving human health and well-being. Solutions focus on reducing various environmental and behavioral risk factors for people in residential, commercial and hospitality spaces.
At HIRI’s Insights Summit, Jie shared details about how COVID-19 has shaped the at-home wellness industry, as well as predictions regarding the state of wellness in a post-pandemic world.
“People are much more cognizant of the important role that homes play in our lives and how these environments can have a positive or negative impact on the wellness of their inhabitants,” he said.
Here is a quick rundown of the four wellness trends Jie believes will have the largest impact on home improvement in years to come.
It’s a fact that viruses spread through the air much easier than by surface contact. When faced with stay-at-home orders, sometimes requiring families to quarantine together in close quarters, the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the importance of indoor air quality, or IAQ, as a component of a healthy home.
“Air filtration is vital to the reduction of particle transmission,” says Jie. “Not only can air-cleaning technologies improve peace of mind when it comes to invisible health threats like COVID-19; they also tackle visible particles in the air such as smoke and other harmful particles.”
Wildfires are a serious issue plaguing many parts of the United States, and climate change research indicates this trend will only intensify in years to come. Jie says that ventilation and/or ionization technology will be at the forefront of the fight against contaminated air in home spaces. “For this reason, IAQ may be the biggest wellness trend to have emerged from the pandemic,” he said.
Mental wellness issues persisted long before the emergence of the coronavirus, but the amount of attention devoted to the topic increased significantly afterward. Jie said mental health came to the forefront of conversation due to isolation during stay-at-home orders. In fact, research shows that before the pandemic, 25% of Americans identified with mental health issues. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 41% have reported experiencing issues with mental health.
So, how does this increased focus on mental wellness influence the home improvement industry? Jie said one result is the general migration away from congested cities in favor of larger residences, more nature, and less commuting time. While there are many factors at play in a person’s decision to relocate, with 22% of city dwellers making the move, it’s safe to say that the pursuit of happiness may be a factor in relocation to more rural parts of the country.
Jie also pointed to the effect of mental wellness on increased demand in certain product categories. Home entertainment purchases, such as video games and streaming services, are up alongside art supplies, sports equipment, and even pets.
Another major change emerging from the pandemic is the increased importance of the home office. Many commercial office buildings were forced to close their doors at the onset of the pandemic, leaving employees to complete their work remotely from makeshift spaces at kitchen tables, bedrooms, or front porches. Now, more than 18 months later, some workers may not be willing to return to the office full time.
“Many employees have made investments in their home offices and have gotten used to working from home,” Jie said. He pointed out that 80% of workers want to be able to work from home three days per week, and 92% want at least one remote workday per week.
“There has been a rise in office furniture and accessories that support health and wellness, such as the standing desk or ergonomic keyboard,” Jie said. He also added that 20% to 25% of companies are currently reimbursing their employees for wellness-related home office supplies and furniture, hinting at the prospect that work-from-home may be around well into the coming years.
The last major home wellness shift that Jie covered in his HIRI Summit presentation is related to personal fitness. While the spread of COVID-19 led to the temporary closure of most gyms and athletic institutions across the country, it gave rise to new home fitness technologies, as people sought to stay fit within the confines of their own homes.
According to Jie, companies like Peloton® and MIRROR are changing the way we think about fitness. “These brands are combining the physical and virtual,” he said. “Consumers not only purchase a piece of gym equipment for their home; they buy into an entire online social and content experience.”
According to Jie, this combination could alter the home-gym concept. “I expect to see more integration with online fitness platforms and home décor,” he said. “People want convertible spaces, so the easier their equipment blends with their home and lifestyle, the better.”
There is no telling where the future of the COVID-19 pandemic will take us. However, HIRI is glad to have experts like Jie to provide insight into how these shifts will affect the home improvement market. To access his presentation and all content from the HIRI Summit, join HIRI today.
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