Dr. Russell Clayton, author of the book Balancing Life: Seven Strategies That Can Help You Achieve Work-Life Balance and assistant professor at the University of South Florida’s business school, asserts that exercise is one of our most effective tools for improving so-called “work-life balance.”
Exercise simultaneously reduces stress and improves our self-efficacy. He points to his research study, published in Human Resource Management and covered by Harvard Business Review, as evidence. Clayton examined the relationship between structured exercise and our ability to manage the intersection between our home and professional lives.
Traditionally, exercise has been viewed almost as a selfish activity: a draw on our finite resource of time—time that could be spent with family or on our work functions. Interestingly, researchers concluded that individuals who engage in a regular, structured exercise program “were less likely to experience conflict between their work and home roles.” Clayton summarizes, “Perhaps more than anything, employers can help by getting the word out that exercise isn’t a selfish indulgence that inevitably requires some sacrifice on either the work or home front. What we found was overwhelming support for a positive relationship between regular exercise and satisfying management of the work-home interface. It isn’t only that exercise supports better physical health. Through its direct impact on increased self-efficacy and reduced psychological strain, exercise leads to better integration of professional and personal lives.”
This is the epitome of “Sharpen the Saw”: Take time away from our work and home roles to focus on improving ourselves. In return, we become more productive in those roles.