The Rising Tide of Bleisure: Enjoy Your Corporate Travel

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For tourists, travel is exciting. They get to explore new corners of the world, unwind from their stressful day-to-day life, and make memories that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the same thing does not apply to many business travelers. Especially if you fly or stay in hotels frequently, being on the road can become a slog that loses the excitement and sense of exploration shared by so many leisure travelers.

But that disconnect is changing. Increasingly, even the busiest travelers for work are making a bit of time for their well-being. A recent study found that 81 percent of millennials, who make up an increasingly significant share of business travelers, associate the concept with happiness and job satisfaction. That’s a far cry from the slog many of us associate with long flights, strange hotels, and early hours.

How does that happen? Simple: business travelers, especially at younger ages, are making sure they find the time to enjoy themselves during a typical business trip. The same survey found that 73 percent of millennials rate leisure time during these trips as important, compared to just 46 percent of baby boomers and 56 percent for members of Generation X.

What is Bleisure 

What does combining business and leisure mean? The answer to that question depends on the individual professional. For most, it means taking some vacation time and adding a few additional days to the travel schedule, which leaves plenty of spare time to explore the location and learn about the culture.

But that’s not the only example of bleisure travel. According to Forbes, Millennials are more flexible and careful with their time, sometimes conducting work in the evening and taking in the sights during the traditional 9-to-5 workday.

The same article also highlights an increasing willingness to order room serve and get ‘pampered’ in hotel-offered services like spas. Finally, the collection of loyalty points for frequent fliers can pay off with more comfortable travel accommodations, or personal trips down the road.

Bleisure's Business Benefits 

The personal benefits of bleisure travel are apparent. A professional who gets some time to explore a new city or culture, or even enjoy themselves at the hotel pool or a nearby beach, will not think of that trip as a waste of time or narrowly business-oriented. But what sometimes gets lost in the discussion of this trend is just how much business can benefit from their employees taking this approach.

To start, business travel that includes some personal pleasure will make travel-based positions in your organization more desirable. This goes back to the study mentioned in the introduction. If 81 percent of millennials, who now travel more frequently for business than any other generation, associate positive feelings with business travel, offering these opportunities will help you make your organization an employer of choice and attract top-end talent.

Also, consider the benefits your organization can get from an employee who traveled to a remote meeting who is relaxed and well-rested, as compared to one who just arrived on a red-eye and will have to leave again before the end of the day. When considered in those terms, it’s not difficult to estimate which alternative will result in a better representation of your organization and a more productive meeting.

Finally, bleisure travel can save your company vacation time and increase productivity. Every employee needs some time during stressful parts of the year to unwind and recharge. If they can do so in combination with a trip they already took for business, they might only miss three days of work compared to the week they would otherwise take off.

Moving Forward 

That bleisure carries significant personal benefits for your employees should be obvious. But the advantages mentioned above are what make it an especially exciting consideration for companies who require frequent professional travel from their personnel.

How can you enable or even encourage your employees to engage in bleisure travel? Just acknowledging the increasing trend toward this concept is an essential first step. Chances are your employees are already thinking about it. Now, it’s up to you to set the rules and guidelines to make sure it works out well for everyone involved.

In other words, it makes sense to clarify your travel policy. A significant hurdle to the concept is the perception that organizations don’t tend to approve of any effort to add leisure time to business trips. If you embrace the idea, your policy should clarify that fact.

Within the same policy, of course, you should also outline some parameters on what is and is not acceptable in combining the two concepts. As SmartMeetings points out,

Another travel policy issue is the duty of care. In other words, when does a company’s liability and obligation to help their traveler begin and end? More than one in ten business travelers said they needed help from their company or the person who arranged the travel on their last bleisure trip.

Clarifying these types of issues is in your company’s and travelers’ best interest. The less blurry the lines are, the more likely both your organization and your employees will begin to gain the advantages that bleisure travel can provide.

Bleisure is not a fad that will go away after a few years. As new generations enter and begin to dominate the workforce, it’s becoming an increasingly central part of business travel. Addressing it now helps your organization understand and reap its rewards, even as your employees spend increasing time taking in the sights and sounds before and after their professional obligations.