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Session Title: Mindfulness for all: A new design approach for workplaces
Speaker: Yoko Kawai, Lecturer / Co-Founder, Yale School of Architecture / Mirai Work Space Alliance
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Session description: The merits of mindfulness in workplaces are extensive and well known. But current office design, as well as the design process itself, limits support for mindfulness because they only focus on individual meditation and space. In this program, Dr. Yoko Kawai, a researcher and practitioner of space for well-being, illustrates two major flaws of this narrow focus and offers actions to correct these issues so that office design will address both the individual and the group at all times. The first flaw is that we fail to benefit from collective mindfulness that can improve the organization’s safety climates, creativity, and performance. The action to prevent it is to implement a more inclusive design process that creates collective mindfulness that ensures agile spatial design which supports the business’ goals and people’s well-being. The second flaw is that the effort to be mindful is confined to the designated space. It prevents workplaces from fully supporting mindfulness for everyone at all times. Being mindful when not meditating means that you are not mindless. To be not mindless at work, Dr. Kawai proposes the second action, to incorporate various “spatial nudges” in the whole workplace. Spatial nudges, the tools that she created based on Japanese spatial concepts, gently remind us to be mindful when and where required, even when not meditating. Examples of spatial nudges, both in traditional settings and their contemporary applications, will be shared.

Bio: Yoko Kawai’s mission is to create “space for well-being” by utilizing Japanese spatial concepts. By being rooted in the ephemeral relationship between nature and human beings, these concepts potentially contribute to the healthy minds and bodies of people worldwide. She advocates this value of Japanese concepts through research, education, and architecture practice. Yoko is Lecturer at the Yale School of Architecture ( Her research encompasses Japanese spatial concepts, space for well-being, and ICT influence on cities and architecture. She currently focuses on spatial interventions to increase mindfulness at work. In 2016, Yoko co-founded Mirai Work Space Alliance ( in New York in order to bring “Space for Well-Being” to contemporary workplaces. She is, also, principal of Penguin Environmental Design ( in Connecticut, which focuses on incorporating landscape, including Japanese gardens, into architecture. Yoko serves on Research Advisory at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and is a member of Task Force for Covid-19 and Other Raspatory Infections at IWBI. Yoko received a B.Eng. in Architecture from Kyoto University, an M.Arch. in Urban Design from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from Kobe University.

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