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Unfucking work with Neina Sheldon

Neina Sheldon is a journalist, coach and light nutrition advocate. She's the Founder of Make Light Matter, which supports individuals to improve their wellbeing by understanding and managing the health impacts of light. We sat down with her for this months Unf*cking Work podcast, listen to the episode here.

What is the one thing you would do to unilaterally unfuck work?

There’s loads I would do... but the key to everything else is raising awareness. We start there. We can’t unfuck what we’re not aware of.

This means being aware that light affects virtually every cell in the body of every single human on the planet.

With that acknowledged, we need to make light matter to us in our daily lives. We can take responsibility for understanding our own individual light nutrition needs – and take action on meeting them – through simple behavioural and environmental tweaks. Flexibility and freedom are our watchwords here.

The ripple effect of this is when you’re meeting your own needs, you’re happier, healthier and more productive – therefore more able to fulfil all the other roles in your life.

And as an employer or someone who operates a service environment, you also have the privilege of being able to help those in your care to meet their needs.

Then think about your profession and the people you serve, and any ways you can help them.

If you’re in anything to do with health and wellbeing, personal development and leadership, or building design and management you can be a hero here and be a light nutrition advocate too.

What is the best example of unfucking work you’ve seen in the wild?

Seeing how entire systems adapted to the first UK COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

The necessity drove innovative thinking and creativity on a scale most of us have never experienced before.

It encouraged everyone from policymakers, professionals, organisations and individuals to consider what can we do? Shaking out how things have always been done by sheer need.

With the status quo interrupted in such an all-encompassing way, people found their own way.

Obviously, there’s huge variations in people’s experiences – we're all individuals with individual situations – but for some people, it revealed how things could be if they were allowed to fit work around their lives instead of the other way around.

I don’t say any of this is to minimise the devastation wreaked on so many levels, or ignore that there was a lot of new ways that work got fucked up.

Only that, if we’re looking for some positives from the experience, I’d point to the acceleration of increased flexibility in work location and schedules that enabled some people to meet their needs more effectively.

Who is your unfucking work icon? The ultimate Work Pirate?

Winston Churchill: There was a man who appreciated the benefits of embracing chronodiversity – and of meeting his needs more generally.

Winston was a late chronotype – a night owl – and adapted his schedule to suit his biological rhythms.

This is something that I would dearly love to see progress more in workplaces. It’s starting – the pandemic accelerated it a lot – but there’s much further we could go.

We need to shift attitudes to chronodiversity, stop night owl shaming and trying to make everyone into an early bird in the belief that this is a better way to be.

Leveraging people’s natural rhythms is better for individuals and workplaces – happier, healthier, safer and more productive workers can only be a good thing.

Beyond chronotype we have seasonality too – some people don’t do well in winter, others not so well in summer. Could we flex and harness people’s natural energy when they are at their best? Could we mitigate resource gaps by crossing international borders and employing people that are in a different season to us?

Recommend a book, podcast or article to our Work Pirates crew that made you think differently about work.

Linda Geddes’ Chasing the Sun – or if you like a visual, check out one of her presentations such as this one.

Linda’s book felt like such a gift at a time when I was exploring and broadening my knowledge about the health impacts of light.

I knew light went beyond the more obvious conditions associated with it like seasonal affective disorder and sleep problems, and I had started mapping the ecosystem around light and health from my own knowledge and experience in 2016. But Linda’s book drew together so much research that I couldn’t have accessed without having all the paid subscriptions to the scientific journals.

She did such a skilful job of explaining everything, even experimenting on herself and with her own family, and spending time with an Amish community.

Another two books that I also consider gifts to the world are Anna Levin’s Incandescent and Professor Russell Foster’s Life Time.


Find Neina on LinkedIn

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