INDIANAPOLIS — Wellness features, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and an elevated awareness of indoor environments’ impact on physical and mental health, are no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity in today’s homes, a leading wellness expert contends.
According to Dr. Jie Zhao, exec. v.p. of Delos, a New York-based wellness real estate and technology company, COVID-19 has literally reshaped the way homes – including kitchens and baths – will be designed, built, equipped and remodeled in years to come.
“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,” Jie said.
At the recent “Insights Summit,” an annual event sponsored by the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), Jie outlined four key wellness trends that he believes will have the greatest impact on home improvement in the post-pandemic world. Among them:
• Indoor Air Quality: Because viruses spread through the air much easier than by surface contact, the pandemic shed light on the importance of indoor air quality, or IAQ, as a component of a healthy home, Jie said.
“Air filtration is vital to the reduction of particle transmission,” he observed. “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.”
Jie said 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 noted.
• Mental Wellness: 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, noting that mental health came to the forefront of conversation due to isolation during stay-at-home orders.
Jie observed that one result of this for the home-improvement industry is the general migration away from congested cities in favor of larger residences, more nature and less commuting time. Jie also pointed to the effect of mental wellness on increased demand in certain product categories, including home entertainment, artists’ supplies, sports equipment and pets.
• Home Offices: Another major change emerging from the pandemic is the increased importance of the home office.
“Many employees have made investments in their home offices and have gotten used to working from home,” Jie said, pointing to surveys which found 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, adding that 20-25% 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.”
• Fitness: While the spread of COVID-19 led to the temporary closure of most gyms and athletic institutions, it gave rise to new home fitness technologies, as people sought to stay fit within the confines of their own homes, Jie pointed out.
“Companies like Peloton and MIRROR are changing the way we think about fitness (and) combining the physical and virtual,” he said. “Consumers not only purchase a piece of gym equipment for their home, but they buy into an entire online social and content experience.”
“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.”