Story at a glance

  • Companies are creating walls made out of plants for office spaces in hopes of appealing to millennials.
  • The design trend hinges on a growing interest in plants and wellness among the largest generation in the workforce.
  • Living walls are advertised to bring benefits of nature into office spaces.

It started with Bean Bag chairs, took a detour at yoga balls and then moved on to standing desks. Now, the evolution of office design gimmicks is bringing us living walls. 

Living walls are the latest trend to catch on in tech companies like Slack, Ebay and Amazon, according to a report from Business Insider. The companies are replacing traditional office artwork with greenery-covered walls, often featuring their logo. Amazon's Seattle campus even has a biosphere in three 100-foot-tall domes with more than 300 species of plants inside, says Business Insider. 

The design trend is piggybacking on the increasing popularity of plants among millennials, who reportedly spent $48 billion on lawn and garden products in 2018. And while we’ve come up with many other reasons why — to show off to their friends on social media, to fill the emptiness in their souls — the positive effect plants can have on people is well-documented. 

Studies show that plants can boost concentration and productivity, reduce stress and even relieve chronic pain. This paired with their contribution to cleaner air hits home with two quintessentially millennial values: wellness and sustainability. The wellness industry is worth more than $4 trillion globally according to a report by the Global Wellness Institute, and millennials are credited with much of the demand (it’s why they can’t buy houses.) 

Plants are also advertised as an antidote to the adverse affects of screen time on workers who rely on computers to do their jobs. Besides straining your eyes, digital screens can affect the body, brain and even your sleep. But for most office workers, especially those in the tech industry, staring at their computer screen is part, if not all, of the job. 

"In Silicon Valley especially, we’re spending a lot of our time inside so having plants and natural lighting are great ways to bring the outside in and make employees feel good," Amanda Goldberg, CEO and founder of Planted Design, told convene

So, why do companies care? Well, millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. And as companies are reportedly relying more on benefits and perks than base-pay increases, living walls are yet another way to retain workers. At least for now. 

Published on Jan 29, 2020