The concept of bleisure seems to have gained some real momentum in the last six months. No longer does the word look like a clumsy, yet increasingly common, typo, with more and more organisations, and their travellers, are becoming comfortable with the idea of blending business and leisure.
With the bleisure trend showing no signs of slowing down, the idea of what constitutes a ‘bleisure trip’ is broadening; no longer does the term just refer to taking a few hours out of a business trip to relax and (gasp!) leave the hotel, but can now involve tagging a couple of days of annual leave onto the end of the trip.
Last year research conducted by Bridgestreet Global Hospitality suggested that six out of ten travellers are more likely to take a bleisure trip today than five years ago. Further to this, a study held by the Collinson Group revealed that 72% of corporate business travellers bolt leisure days on to business trips and that 89% of organisations allow this style of travel – statistics that are in no small part due to leaping technological advances and employers’ increasingly progressive attitudes towards flexible working.
As with any new phenomenon, responses are varied and tentative; for some organisations, and even whole industries, bleisure trips are completely out of the question, whereas for others they offer real opportunities to nurture the employer-employee relationship. How do you decide whether bleisure is right for your organisation? And if you decide it is, how does that affect your current travel policy?
So, what are the benefits to bleisure?
Financially, a bleisure trip makes sense; the employee is not costing an organisation any more by choosing to extend their trip, as the organisation is already paying for the travel, with the employee then paying for things like extra hotel nights, or their companion’s travel costs. In fact, if a traveller’s decision to extend their trip means that they can return at a less popular travelling time then a spot of bleisure could actually cause a reduction in travel spend for the trip.
Of course, the benefits of bleisure extend far beyond costs and allowing an employee to enjoy some recreation time, away from their day-to-day tasks and targets, is a surefire way to increase employee satisfaction, as well as reducing the likelihood of ‘burnout’ and other stress-related health problems. Following that logic, a short burst of ‘R&R’ may return the employee full of renewed enthusiasm and productivity, therefore benefiting both employer and employee.
Hang on, what are the drawbacks?
More traditionally-minded organisations may find the concept of bleisure troublesome and be concerned that it is, essentially, a ‘jolly’ – time wasted when the employee could be working.
However, with an increasing number of employers putting greater value on productivity and output, rather than hours worked, the primary concern with bleisure is that organisations are fulfilling their Duty of Care obligations to their employees. For example, although an employee may have clocked off and be enjoying the ‘leisure’ segment of their business trip, if they are involved in an incident during this time then their employer could be exposed to complications, as the reason for the outbound trip was business-related.
The only realistic, practical way to mitigate against these sorts of situations, however unpredictable and unlikely they may seem, is to explicitly address the matter of bleisure trips within your corporate travel policy; that way, both employer and employee know where they stand and what they’re accountable for.
What do I need to consider in terms of travel policy?
Here are just a few suggestions of things that should be carefully considered upon deciding to adopt a more open approach to bleisure, whilst still wanting to remain in control of your organisation’s corporate travel:
– Should the number of days by which a trip can be extended be limited, in order to contain risk?
– Is there a distinction between business and personal expenses when employees take leisure trips?
– Should it be stipulated that employees will only be covered for travel that does not represent a significant departure from their original travel itinerary?
– In higher risk destinations, should employees be prepared to adhere to required aspects of the corporate travel policy?
– Who is responsible for travelling companions?
As always, there is no such thing as a universal solution that fits the culture of all organisations; for some, bleisure simply won’t work, for others it remains an area to explore.
If the idea of bleisure seems like a realistic option for your organisation and its employees, then it’s worth talking things through with your travel management company (TMC); their experience and expertise means they will be able to advise on everything from how to go about opening the doors to a discussion on bleisure, to the specific terms that would need to be worked into your travel policy in order to protect both your organisation and employees.