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Workplace burnout: the 5 stages & must-know prevention tips


November 1, 2022


January 19, 2024

Mental health at work is a serious topic for businesses. Either because they have already experienced workplace burnout among their teams or they want to prevent it from happening. Considered a mental health issue by the WHO (World Health Organization), work burnout has rapidly increased over the last couple of years. 

However, work depression does not appear overnight. Experts notice five different stages of burnout: the honeymoon phase, the onset of stress, the period of chronic stress, the burnout, and the habitual burnout. We will describe in detail each of them in this article. 

Keep in mind everybody goes through ups and downs. If the “downs” periods last too long, this is a sign that something isn’t right. Employers, leaders, and  HR managers can implement a few strategies to foster a positive work environment and keep employees happy, satisfied, and healthy. We share a few key measures at the end of this article. 

Women with head against laptop keyboard
Tiredness is a sign of burnout

Workplace burnout: the five stages to avoid

Stage 1: the honeymoon phase

Starting a new job usually triggers positive feelings such as motivation, engagement, creativity, and eagerness to learn. Specialists call this the honeymoon phase (like in a marriage!) During this period, everything seems to go smoothly. Your workers are excited and happy to begin a new career chapter. In a perfect world, you and your workforce would like these feelings to last forever.

Stage 2: stress onset

This idyllic phase, unfortunately, doesn’t always last, as periods of stress and unplanned situations are part of any professional life. Your employees experience work anxiety a bit more often and you really need to make an effort to keep your team motivated and satisfied. Symptoms of workplace burnout can start to appear at this stage if nothing is done to prevent them from developing.

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Stage 3: chronic stress

During the phase of chronic stress, your coworkers no longer endure occasional periods of pressure, but this negative feeling is now persistent. They experience anxiety regularly and work depression undoubtedly impacts their lives. They become less motivated and productive, loose patience, and often behave apathetically toward their colleagues. At this point, it can even affect the personal lives of your workforce.

Stage 4: burnout

At this point, the signs and symptoms of work burnout can be felt emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Burnout employees may lose sight of themselves and why they are doing their job. If you notice cynicism, irritability, fatigue, or recurring sickness, for example, these are classic symptoms of burnout. Drastic measures must then be taken to help your team members overcome this work depression. 

Stage 5: habitual burnout

If workplace burnout isn’t stopped earlier, your workers reach the last stage: habitual burnout. This will become even more difficult to overcome once it has become a prominent part of their lives. If not help, an employee who experiences the final phase of workplace burnout can easily fall into depression.

👉 Do you want to know more about the impact of work depression? Check the latest burnout statistics to discover how it affects our lives!


Tired woman with head against desk
Tired employee unable to work due to burnout.

Mental health at work: our tips to keep up

Training about mental health in the workplace

Detecting warning signs of workplace burnout is essential for preventing the situation from getting worse. Therefore, attending a training about mental health at work should be part of your strategy to maintain a healthy working environment. Both employees and managers need to know what the factors of work depression are, what the first symptoms are, and how to avoid or apprehend this issue. 

Suggesting activities to improve mental health at work

When employees experience stress at work, it is sometimes hard for them to take the time to do extra activities. But, it is crucial to switch off from work-related thoughts and keep a healthy mindset. Convince your staff to add some “fun” activities to their weekly planning. You can even make this happen in the workplace by organizing yoga classes during lunch breaks or after office hours, for example. It is also a great way to enhance team connections and create bonds between your coworkers.

Offering an employee assistance program (EAP)

When your team members are unwell, it is directly impacting their abilities at work. Employee assistance programs help them deal with any personal and professional issues (burnout, family matters, abusive behaviors, etc.). EAP experts support them in understanding the source of the problem and thinking about solutions to overcome it. These programs are great for preventive measures and a solution when workplace burnout is already happening. 

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Promoting work-life balance

We constantly talk to you about work-life balance for a very good reason: it is a core pillar of a healthy and happy workforce. Flexitime and hybrid work models are becoming very popular among companies that want to focus more on employee satisfaction and well-being. Since neglecting work-life balance is one of the main causes of a toxic work environment, promoting it will have the opposite effect. Because younger generations of workers are more exposed to burnout, a workplace that allows employees to prioritize their personal lives is one of the most important criteria for Millennials and Zoomers. 

Fostering a positive work environment 

The work environment plays a huge role in helping your workforce stay in the “honeymoon phase” as much as possible. A positive work environment with a strong corporate culture and an employee-centric approach fosters workplace connection, employee happiness, and job satisfaction. It also encourages talent retention and attraction, especially among Millennials and Gen. Z. Last but not least, having a people-focused management style increases the chances that your coworkers come to you if they encounter an issue. It is then a lot easier to tackle the problem together and find solutions before the situation eventually escalates into chronic stress or burnout. 

Team huddle with hands in center
Co-workers doing non work related team building.

As we are all exposed to periods of stress in our professional lives, understanding how workplace burnout happens is fundamental for all of us (employers, leaders, HR managers, and employees). Knowing the five stages of burnout helps spot the signs and symptoms and prevent this negative cycle from continuing. Of course, you shouldn’t wait for one of your team members to experience work depression to take action. You can implement the tips we’ve shared with you to maintain good mental health at work and preserve happiness and satisfaction. Do you want to give your workforce more flexibility? Embrace a hybrid work model and let your coworkers enjoy the benefits of a flexible timetable.

Request a free demo of the deskbird app to see how you can easily manage a hybrid team and office!

Workplace burnout: the 5 stages & must-know prevention tips

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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