‘Bleisure’ is no longer a new buzzword. The term, meaning a combination of business and leisure travel, has garnered a lot of attention in just a few short years, and now more employees than ever are looking to mix work and play.
Research by Bridgestreet Global Hospitality suggests 6 out of 10 travellers are more likely to take a bleisure trip today than five years ago, while a study by the Collinson Group reveals 72% of business travellers regularly extend their work trips for rest, relaxation and sightseeing, adding up to an average of five days over the course of a year. Meanwhile, a study by Egencia demonstrates that 10% of UK travellers always add holiday onto their business trips.
The new business travel norm
The catalysts behind bolting leisure to business travel are obvious. If an employee has always wanted to visit Hong Kong, for example, and they’re then sent there for a work trip, it makes sense for them to simply extend their stay rather than book an entirely separate trip and eat up savings and holiday days in the process. Plus, of course, bleisure offers respite from the stresses of both work and home.
And businesses are increasingly getting behind the concept. As employees foot the bill of additional days away, it doesn’t cost the company anything extra – in fact, it could end up saving them some expense if the employee ends up travelling on a less popular day. Plus, allowing staff to enjoy some time away from their day-to-day tasks is a sure-fire way to increase employee satisfaction, prevent burnout and boost productivity.
Exposure to risk
The problem is, while adding leisure to a trip becomes the new normal for business travel and its benefits become increasingly well-documented, few companies have caught up with the challenges it can present. According to research by Bridgestreet, only 14% of business travellers say they’re aware of a bleisure-accommodating policy at their company, while 27% said they ‘weren’t sure’ if there was a policy in place but had taken a bleisure trip anyway. This, of course, can cause confusion if things go wrong, not to mention expose the company to potential risk.
Create a clear policy
These threats can be mitigated by including a section on bleisure in your company travel policy – but boundaries need to be very clearly defined. For example, you might consider limiting the number of leisure days bolted on to any one trip to help contain elements of risk, or stipulate that employees avoid activities that could be dangerous or reflect badly on the company.
The policy should also make a clear distinction between personal time and business time during a trip – which can also help matters when it comes to figuring out expenses and holiday allowance – as well as outline booking procedures. Booking flights and hotels has never been easier and employees will have no issue making personal arrangements, but would your company be happier if they used your preferred suppliers and booking channels? Perhaps you could help to encourage compliance with your policies by extending your corporate discount to their plans?
Most importantly, your policy should consider liability and duty of care. According to a survey by GBTA, 12% of travellers experienced an issue where they needed assistance during their last bleisure trip, and this begs the very important question: who is legally and financially responsible for employees if they need emergency assistance while they’re away?
Randall Gordon-Duff, head of corporate travel at Collinson Group, says that this is exactly why companies need clearly defined bleisure guidelines: “The legalities around the question of employer accountability for those who bolt leisure days on to a business trip are a somewhat grey area,” he concedes. “However, if a company’s travel policy allows leisure days to be tagged onto a business trip, there is a moral imperative to ensure that employees are aware of any stipulations of cover where the company offers this, or of the need to arrange their own cover if they do not.”
Allowing employees to mix business and leisure offers significant advantages for everyone. By implementing clear and thorough guidelines, so all parties know where they stand and what they’re accountable for, everyone can reap the benefits of bleisure.
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