by WEX Travel
Plenty of corporate travel managers today are doing more than making room for bleisure travel in their policies—they’re actually encouraging employees to tack some personal days onto business trips. Yet for anyone who is still wondering if enabling employees to mix business with pleasure is akin to awarding “free vacations,”… not so fast. When a company is focused on attracting and retaining top talent and is in a constant quest to control costs, taking advantage of the bleisure trend can help them come out ahead.
Let’s explore the reasons why companies are embracing all-things-bleisure as well as best practices for incorporating leisure travel into your corporate travel program. To brush up on the basics, read The Trends Behind The Rise of Bleisure Travel.
Allowing corporate travelers the opportunity to take some personal time alongside their business trips is simply an attractive—and distinctive—employee benefit. It practically puts “we support your work-life balance” on the marquee, demonstrating a priority on the employee experience, health, and wellbeing. So from the perspective of a prospective employee, or even an employee who’s considering moving along to greener pastures, having a bleisure component on the business travel itinerary adds significant value.
And consider the potential impact on employee engagement, a key piece of performance management. In a time when only one-third of employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work (see Gallup for more), there’s never been a better time to enhance road warriors’ levels of happiness or satisfaction with their jobs.
Let’s start with what the company doesn’t pay for. Employees cover all the costs of leisure day accommodations, meals, transportation and the rest—so the company doesn’t spend any more than what was allocated for the business portion of the trip.
And if the employee is using up their vacation or personal days to extend their business trip, they’re not creating any unaccounted for time out of the office. Productivity remains even-steven, or even gets a boost from their day or two of recreation. Happier (and recharged) employees who return to the office less jet-lagged and with a few days of rest under their belts are less likely to suffer burn out and avoid the costs associated with getting sick.
In fact, their bleisure days may result in a lower overall travel spend for the company if they book their return flight at a less popular traveling time, or if their extra days at the hotel lead to lower per-night rates.
Re-booting the Travel Policy
The goal of including leisure opportunities in your company’s travel program is to create a win-win. Here are some ideas to ensure your new bleisure policies work well for all parties.
Consider industry trends/stats.
Think about how these findings from Expedia’s study of the American bleisure traveler (presented in Discover the Untapped Mind of a Bleisure Traveler) may apply to your workforce and travel program:
- Bleisure travelers tend to be frequent business travelers (70% travel at least once every 2-3 months) whose business trips last between two and three nights; they are more likely to add a leisure component when their business trip lasts 3+ days
- The purpose of the business portion of survey respondents’ last bleisure trip:
- 43% Conference/Convention
- 34% Client Meeting/Presentation
- 24% Team Building
- 9% Sales Trip
- 9% Other
- When it comes to days taken for business vs. leisure, 42% take more days for business than leisure, 37% take equal number of days for leisure and business, and 21% take more days for leisure than business
- 84% of bleisure travelers stay in the same hotel for both the business and leisure portions of their trip
- When booking, most visit several websites, led by Event (47%) and OTA (41%) sites; PC and Mobile battle it out for device of choice during research.
For more facts and figures, click over to Bleisure Travel Outlook Shows Promise.
Address Duty of Care Issues. Industry consultancy Collinson Group found that while 89% of companies allow bleisure travel, 31% say their company's travel risk policy doesn’t protect employees during those additional days. Because duty of care is such an important consideration—and getting more attention in industry headlines—it’s more than a good idea to give thought to how your company wants to handle employees’ bleisure time. To get you thinking, here are suggestions from Collinson Group:
- Limit the number of days that can be extended/ taken for leisure purposes
- Stipulate that employees will only be covered for travel that does not represent a significant departure from their original travel itinerary
- Require that, especially in higher risk destinations, employees adhere to all related aspects of the corporate travel policy or provide proof that they have arranged their own cover
Your insurance agent may be able to provide additional guidance on the matter. In the meantime, see 3 Duty of Care Best Practices for Today’s Corporate Travel Managers for more ideas.
Communicate Your Bleisure Guidelines. For your updated travel program to be a success, employees need to understand the hows and whys behind the bleisure policy provisions. As with all employee-facing communications, make the user-friendly, accessible, and do your best to anticipate their questions and concerns. For example:
- Clarify who is responsible for paying for what, including travel companions
- Provide booking guidance (e.g. how should hotel bookings should be arranged when split between business and leisure days, can all nights be booked using corporate tools?)
- Explain how bleisure expense reports will be handled
Find additional insights in Clearing Up The Blurred Lines of Bleisure Travel Expenses and read Bleisure Behaviors Reveal Opportunities for All to see the trend’s impact on travel suppliers, destination cities, and more.