You will no doubt have seen the news that Thomas Cook has entered compulsory liquidation and left more than 150,000 holidaymakers stranded abroad. After 178 years in business, the firm’s collapse has triggered the largest ever peacetime repatriation.

Even though the government has already brought thousands of Thomas Cook customers home, thousands more remain trapped abroad. The liquidation of the company has also put 22,000 jobs at risk.

The decline of Thomas Cook has had a widespread and catastrophic effect on its customers. People have come forward to lament the loss of both planned holidays and weddings booked entirely through the agency. But the torment doesn’t end there.

Customers attempting to book return flights found that the prices had been driven through the roof, with some journeys more than tripling in cost. It’s even worse for the company’s former employees who are now left without jobs (a total of 9000 workers in the UK alone).

Losing Control

Although this situation is quite extreme, most of us will be able to understand the sensation of feeling trapped. Whether it’s feeling shackled by your relationship or your job, we all know the suffocating effect of being stuck somewhere we don’t want to be.

Feeling trapped is a common ailment, one which can have severe repercussions. So how can we make work more positive?

The Role of Employers

The sensation of feeling trapped can have a serious impact on our mental health, especially when left unattended. Allowing ourselves to be locked into the same situation can cause depression, stress, and anxiety. But to break this mindset, we have to first understand why people feel this way.

According to statistics reported in the British Social Attitudes survey, led by NatCen Social Research, the UK ranks 7th in Europe for job dissatisfaction. In the US, 33% of workers believe they have reached a dead-end in their career.

Reasons range from long-hours and low pay to unhealthy work environments and a lack of creative expression. Many also cite a lack of job security and financial uncertainty leaving them with no choice but to stay in jobs where they are not satisfied.

Realistically, very few employees leave their jobs simply because they want larger salaries. Only 12% of workers leave for more money, meaning that most are looking for better work culture, leadership, motivation, and appreciation or acknowledgement of their efforts.

Lack of motivation at work is rising year on year, as employees grow more dissatisfied with their work-life balance and more concerned with their health and wellbeing. However, forces outside their control are often compelling employees to stay where they are.

Like it or not, many of these problems often lie with management. A survey in Harvard Business Review reveals that 58% of people trust strangers more than their own boss. It’s up to the company to make its employees feel comfortable and respected.

  • Care for your Employees’ Health and Wellbeing

One way of doing this is by providing wellbeing support services like a Health Cash Plan or an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). For those who aren’t familiar with these services, Cash Plans offer employees cashback on basic day-to-day healthcare products, such as optical, dental, physiotherapy, and consultant visits.

An EAP allows employees to discuss confidential mental health issues face-to-face with a therapist; things they wouldn’t be able to share with their boss or colleagues.

Both of these benefits have an instant impact on the workplace. The EAP adds that extra bit of mindfulness, getting to the core of the issue by addressing the mental repercussions of working in an oppressive job. 57% of people said that support from their employer would encourage them to be more committed to their work, and studies show that people respond better when their bosses take a more holistic approach to managing their wellbeing.

  • Be More Flexible

One way of ensuring that your employees feel confined is by enforcing a rigid routine. While the structure is essential, too often you see companies who are unwilling to change the way they work.

Flexible hours and allowing people to work in the way that feels best will empower them to shape their jobs. This would work wonders for employee engagement, especially for those who crave a creative outlet.

Employers can also sometimes be afraid to change their methodology. This is understandable – it’s easy to think, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However, employers may struggle to see when their system isn’t working. It can be especially challenging when workers suggest different, unfamiliar ways to complete tasks.

Management might think that they know best because of experience and ignore suggestions to change long-established processes, even if those suggestions are fresher, more efficient, and more exciting.

  • Show Employees why they Matter

More than wanting to feel valued by their employers, employees want to know that what they do is important. People are constantly judging themselves and are obsessively concerned with how others perceive them.

When asked by family and friends, “What do you do for work?” people want to be able to respond confidently and with satisfaction. Nevertheless, many of us find this question difficult to answer.

The main reason is they feel that they aren’t doing anything meaningful and they’re ashamed. But many employees do not fully understand the value of their own position.

It is essential for employers to educate their workers. They must show them how what they do is helpful to themselves and others, rather than just upper management and the company.

Best Laid Plans

Nobody likes to feel trapped or like their lives are out of their hands. For the customers and employees of Thomas Cook, the crash has thrown their plans, schedules and routines into disarray. It may take days, months or even years, for some people to recover. This is an example of a company that failed to look out for its employee and customer wellbeing.

However, for many who are still working, this is often still the case. In order to develop an engaged and loyal workforce, employers must take the first step. They need to ensure that their workers feel listened to and care for, and fully understand that their wellbeing really matters.