What is bleisure travel?

The word ‘bleisure’ is a portmanteau (a blended word) of ‘business’ and ‘leisure’. As the name implies, bleisure travel is a type of trip that’s part business and part leisure. In recent years, the practice has become increasingly popular among travellers and companies.

In an increasingly chaotic world, business travellers have opted for a happy medium between corporate responsibility when working abroad, and using this time for personal experiences, such as walking tours, hikes, beach days or making use of the hotel spa.

There are a few different ways to experience bleisure travel, but the traveller usually opts to either extend on the front or back end of the trip, or take friends and family along for the ride, fitting in quality time in between work commitments. The belief is that the happier the business traveller, the more productive they’ll be and therefore the better return on investment for the company.

What are the advantages of mixing business and leisure as a corporate traveller?

As a result of coronavirus, many companies introduced a hybrid way of working and we’re now relatively used to this set-up. There are many advantages to flexibility in the working environment in general, and specifically for bleisure travel the benefits for the bleisure traveller are plentiful:

  • Time zones – Business travel often calls for working abroad, far from the corporate traveller’s home country. Extending the trip on the front end allows the traveller to adapt to the time zone and therefore be able to work more effectively and efficiently, firing off all cylinders.
  • Less stress – On a basic level, pairing fun or personal activities with work helps achieve a healthier work-life balance. This can lower stress levels and provide the traveller with a more enjoyable experience.
  • Job satisfaction – If the employee feels the company cares about them, it can motivate them to work harder, leaving them satisfied with their performance post-trip.
  • Emission reduction – When employees enjoy bleisure travel, they may not feel the need for that extra holiday initially planned for later in the year. This only results in a saving of time and money, but perhaps one less flight and, therefore, a reduction in their carbon footprint!

How can your company benefit from bleisure travel for your employees?

  • Employee retention – Offering bleisure travel options can increase job satisfaction and discourage employees from looking for other opportunities elsewhere.
  • Boosting morale and company spirit – Allowing employees to enjoy a bleisure trip enables them to return to the office refreshed and raring to go!
  • Attracting talent – Aside from keeping current employees motivated, the opportunity of bleisure travel can also attract new talent to your company.
  • Improving productivity – The more productive the employees, the more likely to see an increase in profits.
  • Repeat business – It’s not always easy to encourage employees to work from abroad, especially when they might have commitments at home. But allowing your employees to combine it with a vacation may convince them to go on this particular trip and go again when necessary.

Are there any challenges to bleisure travel?

  • Visibility – There needs to be an element of trust when it comes to any type of business travel. Just as you trust the employee to do an excellent job for the company at home, the expectation remains the same when the employee’s working abroad.
  • Expense management – Knowing who pays for what and how is essential. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, but it's common practice for businesses to cover costs for their employees on business days and their flights, with the employee footing the bill for anything linked to their time off.
  • Communication – Setting up communication channels for check-ins with the bleisure traveller is a must. Be mindful that there needs to be a delicate balance between checking in and avoiding the employee feeling as though they’re being micro-managed or monitored too heavily.

5 top tips for companies planning a bleisure trip for your employee(s)

  1. Carry out a risk assessment – You may decide to prevent individuals from taking extended trips for leisure purposes altogether if they are travelling to locations that are considered high-risk. Check your country’s government website for more information on where it's safe for your employees to travel.
  2. Business first - While bleisure is great, make sure your employees do not prioritise this at the expense of work. For example, if they arrive a day or two before the week-long conference, perhaps suggest avoiding late-night drinks the evening before the conference starts. After all, business is the reason for this trip
  3. Policies with clear parameters – Agree on what constitutes working and personal periods, ensuring the employee understands your company's travel policy before departure. Knowing what is and isn't covered regarding traveller spending and security will make the process easier and safer for travellers and businesses. For example, if employees are only covered under an assistance and insurance plan in the travel business portion of your organisation, you may suggest that they arrange their own insurance for the leisure part of the trip.
  4. Written documentation – Hopefully, there’s a good amount of trust between management and employees, but even with the most trustworthy employees, you can’t rely on a “handshake agreement”. Without documenting bleisure travel policies in writing, companies leave room for noncompliance and overblown expenses – and, in some extreme cases, lawsuits.
  5. Technology – As the bleisure trend continues to rise, some tech companies offer new tools to businesses specifically for this type of travel, such as bleisure loyalty programmes, contactless payment solutions, or safety-focused GPS apps. While it’s difficult to eliminate risk for bleisure travellers completely, management teams can use technology to help keep track of their employees' well-being wherever they are.

5 top tips for business travellers embarking on a bleisure trip for the first time

  1. Use your holidays wisely – If possible, try to coincide your bleisure trip with a bank (public) holiday, just before or after the weekend. Planning the trip this way will allow you to gain three days of exploring a new country without losing a single day of paid annual leave. Don't forget to book as early as possible to avoid sky-high flight and hotel costs.
  2. Bleisure travel further afield – Why not travel to a couple of nearby cities, either at the beginning or the end of your bleisure trip? For example, if travelling to a European city, another exciting and beautiful city is usually only a short and cheap train ticket away. Feel free to explore!
  3. Choose the hotel – Ask what the budget is for the accommodation and if you can decide which hotel to stay in whilst you’re there. You might not have time to stray too far from the hotel so facilities such as a swimming pool or a spa on the grounds would be ideal. Or perhaps you’ve chosen to bring your partner or children with you on your bleisure trip. Therefore amenities and activities for them to enjoy whilst you work, such as tennis courts or a kids club, might be perfect.
  4. Do your hotspot homework – Not all hotels you stay in will have dedicated workstations, or even know where locally might be best for you to set up your temporary mobile office. Research local areas before you go; make a list of potential cafes that offer free wifi, have a strong signal or perhaps just a quiet spot with a fantastic view of the beach.
  5. Pack like a pro – What was first a three-day business trip has turned into an eight-day bleisure break. Packing can seem like a daunting task, so to make sure you don't have to wear your swimsuit underneath your suit to save room in your luggage, a simple solution might be to opt for the smaller carry-on bag to give yourself more packing space in a backpack (rather than just one medium-sized case). When strapped for space, consider versatile clothes that can pass for both business and casual – clothes you can dress up with heels or smart shoes in case of a client dinner or dress down with some trainers for exploring the city streets.

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