Bleisure. This portmanteau of ‘business’ and ‘leisure’ sounds like one of those annoying buzzwords that crop up every year. But it’s a trend that’s picked up in recent years, and one that corporate travel planning managers would be wise to pay attention to.
In a nutshell, bleisure refers to business trips planned to include leisure time. Note that in this case, leisure does not simply refer to business travellers getting drinks after work, and having their employer pick up the tab.
Rather, it means being able to make travel arrangements that tack on a few more days to the business trip, or scheduling the trip over a weekend to allow time for leisure activities.
The idea is simple: business travel can be exhausting. And more employees are asking their employers for a few extra days per trip to relax, explore the city, or maximise their time away from home and work.
In fact, a 2017 SAP Concur study found a 20 percent increase in bleisure trips from the previous year. It is especially popular among millennials, who make up the largest group of bleisure travellers.
Meanwhile, a separate 2018 Expedia Group study found that 60 percent of all business trips in China, India, Germany, the UK, and the US were bleisure trips.
Why companies should consider bleisure?
As you would expect, there are several benefits to integrating bleisure into your corporate travel policy.
Work-life balance 🏖
A study commissioned by London City Airport for its Bleisure Travel Report found that 78 percent of travellers who were able to experience the leisure side of a business trip were more satisfied when they returned to work, while 61 percent reported feeling more productive after a bleisure trip.
A corporate travel policy that permits bleisure communicates that your company values work-life balance. You’re already paying for round-trip fares anyway, so for the price of what might be a slightly more expensive return flight on a weekend, you underwrite your employee’s ability to ‘recharge on the job.’
Higher employee retention rates 🙋♀️
Let’s face it, keeping employees is cheaper and more efficient than replacing them with new hires. By integrating bleisure into your corporate travel planning policy, your travelling employees feel more engaged and motivated at work.
For example, a policy that allows employees to bring their partner or children with them on business trips means giving them more time with family. That’s a personal benefit that money or gifts can’t buy.
The bottom line? Happy employees aren’t just productive. They’re also loyal.
Networking opportunities 💬
Bleisure trips also present opportunities for business travellers to network in environments where they are most comfortable in. Allowing your employees to socialise with their local counterparts over coffee or drinks can lead to more intimate and engaging discussions than what they would have in an office environment.
How to implement corporate travel policies that support bleisure?
While there is no universal solution to incorporating bleisure into your corporate travel policy, there are steps you can take to show that you explicitly allow bleisure trips.
Show that it’s part of your company policy and culture 📝
According to research by Egencia, 20 percent of business travellers confessed they skipped adding leisure portions to their business trips because they feared their boss would disapprove. This percentage is even higher in the Asia-Pacific region, where 32 percent of employees said they were concerned they’d look bad mixing business with leisure.
If bleisure is going to be a company perk, be clear about it. Put the guidelines on paper, include it in your corporate travel arrangement checklist, and—this is important—make sure all your employees know it’s an option under certain circumstances.
Be clear on eligibility and allowability ✅
In most cases, a company’s bleisure policy applies to all employees travelling for official company business. However, there are several ways to get creative with bleisure eligibility.
For example, you could incentivise bleisure by offering it as a reward to employees who submit expense reports on time or travel within budget. Alternatively, you can stipulate that all employees are covered for bleisure travel, and offer the reward of bringing family with them for certain conditions.
Apart from eligibility, you must also be clear on the instances when bleisure is allowed and not allowed. Certain business trips, such as those that require a meeting at headquarters immediately after the last day of business or one-day affairs, can be made exempt from bleisure.
Be mindful of the details 🗂
The tricky thing about bleisure is figuring out where it starts and where it ends. Every travel manager should assume that if something appears to be confusing in your policy, it will confuse people.
As such, there are key questions you need to answer before drafting a bleisure policy:
- When does cost coverage end during a business trip? After the final day of official business? A day after? Two days after?
- How will hotel accommodations be arranged and paid for on bleisure trips? Will the company cover hotel costs only for official business, or throughout the entire stay?
- What is the limit for the number of leisure days that can be added to business trips? Can return flights be scheduled on a weekend despite the higher cost of airfare?
- How will the company handle expense reports for bleisure?
- What are the specific guidelines and limits for bringing guests on bleisure trips? Is the policy limited to family only? Will the company allow for larger rooms to be booked?
Outline your company insurance coverage ☂️
Risk management is a perennial concern for any travel manager. When it comes to bleisure, your immediate priority is your employee’s safety and security.
However, your insurance only covers activities during the business portion of the trip. Outline and discuss with employees what your company is legally and morally responsible for. You can then encourage them to obtain personal travel insurance to cover the leisure part of their trip.
Bleisure isn’t going away anytime soon
Bleisure may sound gimmicky, but it’s a practice that’s gaining traction worldwide for several good reasons.
Business travel can be brutal, and giving employees the opportunity to mix business with a bit of pleasure can go a long way towards removing some of that stress. Employees also come back to HQ feeling refreshed, and they’ll appreciate knowing that you care about their well-being.
But with bleisure travel arrangements blurring the lines between official business and vacation time, companies need to be clear about the rules and boundaries of this privilege. As with any aspect of corporate travel planning, the key is communication between travelling employees and the teams managing their travel and expenses.