5 Trends Propelling Interiorscaping Through the Next Decade
Just last month, Bill Gates announced that he predicts that 50 percent of business travel and 30 percent of office life are never expected to rebound post-pandemic. At a glance, that prediction is dire, especially if you’re an airline or a business hotel.
Though interiorscapers frequently service these industries, I have an optimistic outlook on the prospects of interiorscaping. The pandemic has accelerated a number of trends, both positive and negative for the overall global economy. However, for our industry, I predict the demand for our services will increase over the next decade.
The Great Workplace Redesign
Before the pandemic we knew the workplace needed some reinvention. I would tour clients with entire floors filled with assigned cubicles, but I’d rarely see more than 20 percent of their staff actually at their cubicle at any given time. Where were these people? In a meeting? At Starbucks? Working from home? Frankly, I would want to spend as little time as possible working on one of those cubicle floors too – it felt soul sucking.
Contrast the corporate cubicle farm with your first impressions of walking into a fashionable co-working space. In normal times, these spaces are bursting with activity and life. Originally, the “hot desks” and shared lounges with craft beers on tap were for boutique entrepreneurs, start-ups, and for those working in a “virtual workplace” before we knew what virtual working really meant. The co-working space was designed to provide an alternative to the home office.
As a result, these co-working spaces designed a workplace where people wanted to work, and where there was an energized sense of community. Big corporations caught on, have contracted with some of the biggest names in co-working to replicate this environment for traditional businesses.
Then comes the pandemic, where office workers are forced to work from home. They realize that they can do their tasks from anywhere and the bean-counters ask, “why does the company need all this expensive real-estate?”
This change is the opportunity for the interiorscape industry. Never have so many companies felt the need to renovate, reinvent and re-evaluate the design of the workplace. Work from home hybrid models require more space devoted to collaborative spaces, lounges and meeting rooms. The company may lease less square footage with a combined work from home model, but that also means they will likely spend more per square foot to make these spaces feel more comfortable. Plants will be a big part of that.
1. White collar decentralization
Working from home has come with mixed results for many office workers, but the one benefit that everyone seems to agree on is the elimination of the Monday to Friday commute. Why must so many people travel to a big, centralized headquarters every day?
Some companies have already announced a hybrid model of combined office time and work from home post-pandemic. That is only the beginning.
I imagine as companies redesign their workspaces, big regional employers will either establish neighborhood branch offices, or join co-working spaces so employees have work amenities close to home. The office will become decentralized with the right mix of amenities, technology, and processes to make it feel central and cohesive.
2. More natural light, more plants
Better natural light and overall better work lighting is now common in new construction and renovation. Companies are even installing lights that are programmed to mimic the human circadian rhythm, which can help to improve productivity. Higher standards on the quality of light in the workplace is a gift to the everyday interiorscaper. As companies relocate and renovate, expect to find much better light sources for your plant designs.
4. Robber baron residentials
If Bill Gates’ prediction that 50 percent of business travel will not recover is even half accurate, high-level executives will be spending much more time at their home (or homes), especially since it will be more acceptable to join a meeting virtually. With everyone grounded during the pandemic, it caused a boost in demand for suburban and rural real estate, renovations, and home furnishings, and it looks like that demand will continue post-pandemic.
Expect the robber barons of our time to take the family compound concept to the next level. More of everything. More space, more guest houses, more bathrooms, and more plants—lots of plants. They are spending now, so if your company has wealthy residential client and is positioned to expand on it, you will weather the COVID dip better than most.
5. Al fresco everything
Demand for outdoor dining, living and meeting space will continue to expand. Interiorscapers are well positioned to be the service provider for all of these new patios, sidewalk enclosures and roof-top conversions. This will be true for all categories of real estate where people work, live and congregate.
Clients will also lean on our expertise as interior landscapers to help create al fresco experiences via retrofits, in enclosed and unusual spaces. This where our knowledge on light requirements, access and proper specifications on replica plants is paramount.
Change is never easy and in a climate of accelerated change, there will certainly be painful moments. Some long-standing clients will close, and others will merge or renovate without the need for office plants. In fact, one executive told me that “if 80 percent of a job can be done at home, why wouldn’t we offshore the job to the Philippines for half price?”
Even though the pandemic has increased account attrition, I see the demand for interiorscaping growing exponentially over the next decade. Since plants are purchased and installed at the end of the design/renovation process, there will be a 12-24 month lag before most of us see an increase in new business from commercial accounts. Overall, I am bullish, optimistic, and looking forward to the roaring 20’s of interiorscaping.