Depressing reading last week from the second European Opinion Poll on Occupational Safety and Health.  While the Eurozone countries are at odds with each other in many other respects, they are happily entirely united in the belief that our working lives are going to get worse.

Not that we are starting from anywhere particularly cheerful – a quick straw poll at the last few social events I have attended reveals a population already either working like mad, ashen-faced with exhaustion; sensing work levels dropping off and fearing the worst; or already unemployed.  The casual question “How’s work?” has become one to ask only with some circumspection.

The Poll took the opinions of over 35,000 employees in 36 European countries (there are 36 European countries?  Really?  No wonder Eurovision seems so interminable) as to likely stress levels at work into the near future.  80% of them think that levels of stress in the workplace will increase in the next 5 years and half believe that it will increase “a lot”, which is not a scientific measure, but telling all the same.  This echoes the findings of an earlier European survey on new and emerging workplace risks which indicated that 79% of managers believe stress to be an issue in their companies, making it as big a concern as actual workplace accidents.   Only 7% of those responding thought that stress levels would drop (where do they work?) and 1% couldn’t summon up the energy to form any view at all.

But although the overall trend is similar across Europe, the different pressures imposed by the financial crisis in different countries are reflected in the views of their working populations.  Only 16% of Norwegians think that their workplace stress will increase “a lot” in the next half-decade, whereas this is perceived to be the inevitable future by a currently entirely understandable 83% of Greeks.

And to end on a more uplifting note, forget the European Championships, forget the Olympics and three cheers instead for 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations!  You mean you didn’t know?