Published: March 26, 2024 | Updated: March 22, 2024

Walking the work-life tightrope

Braden Thomas

Braden Thomas

What is work-life balance, and how do people find it? 

For many people, time is the one resource that there just isn't enough of, and when you factor in work, family, sleep, and hobbies, 24-hour days seem almost criminal. 

Work-life balance is simply defined as the ability to balance professional responsibilities with personal interests, pursuits, and obligations.

Several recent studies show that in the post-COVID era work environment, millennials and Gen Zers are reshaping today’s workforce and helping ensure success and prevent burnout. 

Today’s workforce values flexibility in business culture, benefits, stability, and opportunity – from pay structure and available leave time to working from home, and results-based work as opposed to set hours as well as clear paths to promotion, and acceptance and understanding of mental health. 

Understanding this means understanding today’s definition of success.

Twenty years ago, success was measured in terms of assets and ownership. Today, success is measured in flexibility — when, where, and how much you work, along with how you spend your free time. 

Faces of today’s workforce

Ben Allen, Braden Thomas, and Alexa Griffin work in different businesses. However, each of them is still trying to figure out that coveted work/life balance. 

Allen, 33, is Shoshone County’s prosecuting attorney – a position that requires long hours and carries a significant amount of responsibility. 

Griffin, 33, is a surrogacy match coordinator with Abundant Life Surrogacy. Her position allows her to work remotely in a very unique field that comes with a lot of emotional weight. 

Thomas, 24, is a marketing coordinator with Dave Smith, where he works closely with the Silver Valley community to maintain a cooperative relationship between the communities and the globally recognized automotive dealership. 

Paths to success

If success is no longer tracked by what you have or what you make, then how is it measured? 

The truth of the matter — it looks different for everyone. 

Adequate compensation remains important, but flexibility isn’t far behind. 

If you’re pursuing something that you’re passionate about — these things might be more negotiable, but that balance is always at the forefront of people’s minds. 

According to a recent survey from professional service group Deloitte, almost 17% of people prioritize work-life balance before taking a job. 

Prioritize, not consider. 

This means that it is among the most important factors — if not the most important factor — when they are looking for a job. 

For some people, overworking is one of the first jumpscares that lead people away from a potential job. But, sometimes, it’s unavoidable. 

For Allen, being an elected official means that he’s always on call, and requires he put in more time than just a standard 40-hour week. 

“Most weeks, I work between 70-80 hours a week, which usually involves working seven days a week,” Allen said. “To make time to be with my two young children, I intentionally structure my workday to begin at 5 a.m. where I spend the first two hours each day working from home, enabling me to be at the house when my children wake up to assist with getting them ready and seeing them off. From there, I head into my office in the courthouse where I work until the evening. At least a few days a week, I try to ensure I am home by 7 p.m. so that I can have dinner with my family, play with my kids, and put them to bed.”

Allen isn’t the only person who structures their work around family time. As a former surrogate, and now as a surrogacy match coordinator, Griffin’s work is heavily concentrated and often requires her to travel. 

“I work 32-35 hours per week on average,” Griffin said. “I work from home primarily, but it can sometimes include travel for in-person meetings and support. The convenience and flexibility of working from home are great, but it can be challenging at times for communication. I have adjusted my availability for work to accommodate my family's schedule. I have a supportive boss who encourages a family-first mindset, and I am allowed to shuffle my work as needed as long as I am productive in my tasks.” 

Productivity is key in today’s fast-moving world — But for some people, working from home can be a productivity killer as potential distractions are hiding in plain sight. 

This is why Thomas appreciates having an office to work from.

“I don't have the option to work from home, but it's not a challenge for me. I find that being in the office helps me stay focused and engaged with my tasks,” Thomas said. “While some may find working remotely convenient, I prefer the structure and collaboration that comes with being in the office environment. Working in an office has allowed me to build strong interpersonal relationships with my coworkers, which in turn makes communicating about our work easier and more effective.” 

Acts of service

Getting involved or volunteering can be found on many New Year's resolution lists. Allen, Thomas, and Griffin say acts of service are important — and put it into practice.

Thomas is the president of the Silver Valley chapter of the Kiwanis Club, as well as a member of the Kellogg Rotary Club, a Shoshone County Food Bank board member, and a volunteer with the Shoshone Pet Rescue. 

Allen is an Idaho Hunter’s Education instructor, official measurer for the Boone & Crockett Club for wildlife conservation, high school basketball official and evaluator, the president of the North Idaho Officials Association, and a past president of the both the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

Griffin is the elected chair for the Kellogg School Board, president of the Canyon School Organization, a member of the Canyon Elementary School Literacy Program, and the treasurer for the Shoshone County Crisis Resource Center board. 

With busy lives already filled with careers, families, and some semblance of a social life, why would someone add on so much additional responsibility? 

The answer is simple: To make sure that the community that they love and thrive in, can be one where others can enjoy those qualities as well. 

“My goal is to end each day hoping that I used the tools I have been given to make the world around me a better place,” Allen said. “Reinvesting in the community we live in is a vital function of our social sustainability.”

Thomas may have a slightly different approach, but the reward is just as gratifying. 

“My career has given me the opportunity to become involved in various organizations that benefit the Silver Valley,” he said. “I hope that I have taken the opportunities presented to me and used them to make as much of a positive impact as I am able to on my community.”  

The great balancing act

Griffin believes that the flexibility found in her job allows her to be more present in her day-to-day life — be it with her children, husband, or friends. 

“I am passionate about helping people become parents, and the women willing to use their bodies to make that a reality,” She said. “My job allows me to be passionate about my life as well. I am lucky enough to be active in my children's lives more than I was in my past career, and I have also found the time to be an active and contributing community member in a place that I love and want to see flourish.” 

Allen’s dream is to one day move from the prosecutor’s chair into the judge’s seat — and with that comes a lot of sacrifices. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t be present for his friends, family, and community, he said.

During the winter, there’s a good chance Allen can be found refereeing a high school basketball game, and if it’s fairly local, his wife and kids are likely there watching. 

To maximize his time, Allen doesn’t spend much of it in front of a television or playing on his phone — he spends it where it’s most valuable. 

“By cutting out television, minimizing social media usage, and mastering multitasking, I strive to maximize my dedication of time to those things that matter most,” Allen said. “When we have an extra free minute and we reach for our family, friends, or fellowship, rather than our phone, it is amazing how much fulfillment we can gain from the hours in our day.” 

Thomas throws himself into his work and the groups he’s involved in, grabbing social time when it’s convenient. That, he said, is a perk of the position he has at Dave Smith, where his involvement and outreach in the community is encouraged. 

“I sometimes spend a weekend volunteering at an event like Leadman or the Osburn Craft Fair, but I am usually able to separate personal time from work and volunteering very easily,” Thomas said. “However, the time I do spend volunteering in my free time doesn’t feel like work. The groups that I am a part of make doing these things so enjoyable that I look forward to being a part of it.”

Looking ahead

Work-life balance isn’t just the here and now, it’s also tied to the future. 

Are you setting yourself and your family up for success? Are you pushing yourself beyond your means? Is your timeline both realistic and attainable? Will you be able to adapt? 

Adaptability is key — and part of the new and improved version of success is the ability to both learn and change when necessary. 

Allen is in the unique position of being a business owner, but also holding an elected position. The responsibilities of his office are far and wide — not just in the criminal world, but also as the legal representation of Shoshone County. To this end, he’s been working to make sure that the office he eventually leaves is in a better place than how he found it so that the next prosecuting attorney can have an even better opportunity at achieving a quality work/life balance. 

“As the population, criminal caseload, and civil litigation in Shoshone County continue to rise, it becomes more and more difficult to balance work with the other demands of our lives,” Allen said. “I am hopeful that increased attorney staffing within our office in the future can help the prosecuting attorneys in Shoshone County maintain a healthy work-life balance, mitigate burnout, and enable time for civic-service engagement that has long been a hallmark of prosecuting attorneys in the Silver Valley.” 

A budding business professional, Thomas is looking to continue his professional development and growth by prioritizing time for himself to pursue additional knowledge and opportunities. 

“I see myself still growing and learning, both personally and professionally. I imagine being part of a great team, making a positive impact, and working towards shared goals,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, I'll have gained more experience and taken on new challenges, all while keeping a good balance between work and life.” 

Whereas Allen has two small children, and Thomas has no family or children, Griffin is moving into the years when her children will soon be teenagers. Her career allows her to be present for her kids — which parlays perfectly into her work because, at its core, surrogacy is about being a parent. 

“In a few years I’ll be raising teens, which means that the need for flexibility and balance between my work and my personal life will be greater than ever,” Griffin said. I will still be working with people building their families through surrogacy, but I plan to become a bigger advocate for reproductive rights while educating people on the avenues to family building. But I will also make sure that I always stay involved in my community, and hopefully my kids will see that and they’ll want to get involved as well.”

    Shoshone County Prosecuting Attorney Benjamin Allen

    Alexa Griffin