Ignore commercial TV’s deluded work-life balance advice

As with most bulk-billing clinics, there was an old TV in the waiting room. A lifestyle program blared at full volume, to drown out the wheezing pensioners and wailing toddlers.

First, the panellists interviewed a washed-up pop star. Then, a demonstration of how to cook spaghetti in your microwave (hint: don’t).

But it was the next segment that made an old bloke shuffle over and stab the off button.

Look. I can hardly throw stones at cheap daytime filler.

I spent the 1990s not in a haze of teenage drug experimentation, but in a television-induced state of catatonia. School holidays were spent glued to shows like Oprah.

“You’re not respecting my authentic self,” I told my startled father – parroting an Oprah “life expert” – when he ordered me to switch off the damn television and get some exercise.

It’s one thing to defile the food of my ancestors. But when commercial TV proffers comically bad “self-care tips” – tone-deaf to its own viewers – it can no longer wonder why those viewers are disappearing.

Back in the waiting room, incredulity turned to anger as a guest on the show explained how to “beat work stress”.

A former corporate executive, she’d become burned out after 20 years of highly-paid employment. So she took stock in the south of France, then reinvented herself as a “work-life balance consultant”.

When you become overwhelmed by meetings, she urged viewers, take 10 minutes to meditate. Brew a pot of peppermint tea. “Centre yourself” with a walk in the sun. Book a day spa treatment.

Have the “courage” to ask for a raise. Above all, “learn” to leave the office by 6pm – and don’t answer if your boss calls at night. You know, just work less.

This was not well-received by the patients.

“Actually,” a 60-something woman snapped at the screen, “I need to work more.”

A man in a chain store uniform suggested the advice-giver stick her tips (and her teapot) in an anatomically improbable place. Then the old guy got up and hit the power button, prompting sighs of relief. Continue reading

  • Michael Lallo is an entertainment reporter for The Age.
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