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These blue-eyed boys don't do stress, they cause it

Among the many books I chucked out in a recent cull at home was one called Leave the Office Earlier.

I now can't remember its strategies for severing the shackles that bind you to your desk, though I think that telling colleagues firmly that you weren't to be disturbed featured among them.

On a newspaper, you can tell your colleagues firmly that you're not to be disturbed and their reply will be very firm indeed.

It's simple. At the start of the day, there is darkness on the face of the deep. At the end of it, there are 100-odd pages of coruscating copy, a witty and weighty (one hopes) window on the world. No one gets out until that act of alchemy has taken place.

I love my job, but returning to work, after several months off sick, has been a shock.

It wasn't just the swapping of tracky bottoms for skirts.

It wasn't just the will-they, won't-they twists and turns in the most gripping romance since Darcy sneered at Elizabeth Bennet. It was the fact that there was a blank page and it was my job to fill it. In finding work stressful, I am not alone. Nearly a fifth of all workers, according to the mental health charity Mind, have called in sick because of workplace stress and lied about the cause.

Health and Safety Executive research shows that stress and the mental health problems it leads to - depression, anxiety, sleep problems and alcohol dependence - are responsible for more than half of all the working days lost every year. Oh, and it's killing us.

We are, as the recession bites, all under pressure to work harder. And those who work three or more hours of overtime a day are, according to new research, 60% more likely to die of a heart-attack than those who don't.

You'd have thought that all this hard work might lead to greater job satisfaction, but actually it doesn't.

Autonomy in the workplace has, in recent years, been significantly reduced.

It's hard to see how any of this is going to get better. In the catechism for the new sunshine coalition there are promises to extend the right to request flexible working hours (which sounds good), review employment rights (which sounds ominous) and phase out the default retirement age (good if you have a lovely job, bad if you have a horrible one).

But all is subject to the Holy Deficit, the reduction programme for which 'takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement'.

Back, in other words, to our old friend 'efficiency savings'.

The nice young men who wrote it, the young men whose policies mean instant job losses for thousands in the MoD, and at least as many in the administrative side of the NHS, couldn't look more like the cat that got the caviar.

David Cameron, when not struggling with the alien concept of foreign languages that aren't Latin and ear-pieces that aren't an iPod, gets rosier-cheeked every day.

Nick Clegg is so enjoying his role as Messianic sidekick that he's ditched all pretence of self-deprecating charm.

"You've never read a document like this," he boasted of the new coalition 'programme for government', the day after he'd boasted about the biggest political reforms for nearly 200 years.

Five years of this is not going to reduce our stress levels.

Pass the antacids, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Unless, perhaps, we can persuade those blue-eyed boys in the blue suits and blue ties to Leave the Office Earlier.