A significant travel enhancement that took place in the 2010s, and one that many business travellers have taken advantage of, is the advent of unconventional options like Airbnb or furnished apartments instead of traditional chain hotels.
These options provide a more relaxed environment for the business traveller. Non-traditional accommodations provide an opportunity to be in a homelike setting, sometimes away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and also accommodate bleisure travel – the combining of leisure or personal vacation time with a business trip, or a “workcation.”
Bleisure is booming. The global bleisure travel industry, estimated at $315.3 billion in 2022, is projected to hit over $731 billion by 2032. Blending work travel with leisure can help employees not only save on vacation costs but create better work-life balance for them. For employers, bleisure can result in a more engaged, productive, and loyal workforce.
Refining travel policy, procedures for bleisure.
When people embark on a bleisure or “workcation,” it presents important questions about responsibility and accountability for the employees and employers. Who pays for what? Where does the company’s responsibility end and the employee’s begin? HR professionals and executives responsible for business travel need to clearly understand the considerations that go into the formulation and implementation of effective policy for bleisure while maintaining fiscal responsibility to their company.
Establishing well-defined travel policies is the foundation for ensuring employee safety during bleisure trips. These policies should outline guidelines and restrictions and clearly state the company’s expectations. Travel policy and procedures for bleisure should include:
- Eligibility and restrictions: Define the criteria for employees to be eligible for bleisure travel. Define any restrictions, such as limitations on the duration of leisure activities, the types of activities allowed, or specific destinations where bleisure is not permitted due to safety concerns.
- Pre-travel risk assessment process: It is vital to conduct thorough research prior to travel, particularly when evaluating the suitability of a location for bleisure travel. Sharing information with employees regarding factors such as political stability, healthcare infrastructure, and crime rates empowers them to make informed decisions about their safety and well-being.
- Approval process: Establish a clear approval process that includes an evaluation of the business purpose of the trip and the proposed leisure activities. This ensures that the primary focus remains on business objectives while allowing employees to incorporate leisure activities within reasonable boundaries. Define who has the authority to approve or deny requests for bleisure. Ensure that the process is transparent, consistent, and aligned with the company’s travel policy.
- Safety and security guidelines: Develop safety and security guidelines specific to bleisure travel. This should include information on assessing the safety of leisure activities and guidelines for avoiding risky situations. Encourage employees to prioritize their safety and provide emergency contact and incident response procedures.
- Partnerships and vendors: Build partnerships with vendors to optimize costs while enhancing the overall travel experience for employees. These can include hotels or serviced apartment providers that offer competitive rates for extended stays.
- Expense and allocation policies. Develop transparent limits, guidelines, and policies regarding how expenses will be allocated between the employee and the employer. For example, specify which portion of the transportation and accommodation cost will be borne by the employee. Clearly communicate the guidelines to avoid ambiguity and misunderstandings.
- Reimbursement and documentation procedures: Establish a clear and efficient reimbursement process outlining the documentation required, submission deadlines, and approval procedures. Set expectations for accurate reporting and record-keeping to ensure compliance with internal and external audit requirements.
Millennials and Gen-Zers are built for bleisure
Millennials have grown up with technology and are fully aware of their choices and price points through aggregated content online. This demographic is accustomed to searching through multiple platforms and reviewing their options. In fact, for this group, most decisions, including where to stay, where to eat, and where to meet clients are made online. Millennials and Gen Zers prioritize value and overall experience while traveling; this segment is primarily responsible for blurring the lines between business travel and leisure.
Millennials are also in the habit of personalizing their experience to fit the budget they are given. With millennials expected to comprise three-quarters of the world’s workforce by 2025, business managers will require a shift in their travel policies to accommodate the needs and preferences of this important age segment. Not only are their habits and preferences different, but millennials and Gen Zers have a different attitude about business travel. In a poll conducted by TripActions, 90% of millennials see travel as a perk of their job, and 39% will not take a job that does not allow them to travel for business.
This segment of employees needs specific consideration when addressing and reinventing travel policies. Employers may find that their savvy technology use as well as their willingness to travel present new possibilities for operationalizing business travel policies.
Why bleisure is booming: A reflection of a new business world
While bleisure has been more popular among younger business travelers, it is increasingly becoming more mainstream. With employees working flexible hours, working from home, and/or working in more relaxed office environments, the boundaries of work and personal life have blurred, and the popularity of bleisure travel, bizcations, or workations is growing significantly.
The trend is fueled by heavy workloads and unused vacation days. Travel Edge reported an increase of more than 25% interest in bleisure trips and workations in 2022. This flexibility and crossover in travel purposes provides an opportunity for employees to get away from their everyday habits, and to rejuvenate and de-stress by adding time to their business trip for their own pleasure – particularly when they can have a more immersive experience by savouring the culture and food of the travel destination.
It’s not just about traveling for a meeting anymore; it’s about experiencing the destination. In many cases, bleisure travellers are willing to spend more on dining and entertainment because their company paid for their flights. Ease is important for bleisure travellers, who may not have time to research thoroughly before the trip, and hospitality companies can partner to create immersive experiences like full-day tours and well-rounded excursions.
It’s clear that the future of work is changing. Bleisure offers an opportunity to continue important business trips while adding enjoyment as a reward for employees. By creating a better work-life balance, bleisure increases employee morale, job satisfaction, and retention. But managers should carefully consider the full impact to their business and should implement clear guidelines and policies before embracing bleisure.
Article by Anuja Agrawal.
About Anuja Agrawal
Anuja Agrawal (https://anujaagrawal.com) is co-author of Check-Up, Check-In: Why BusinessTravel Strategies Should Prioritize Employee Health And Wellness. Agrawal is also the founder/CEO of Health Flights Solutions, which has developed the leading technology platform for medical travel. Agrawal has held senior executive positions with Fortune 500 companies leading divisions, defining strategic direction, managing acquisitions, and enabling strategic growth. She is an innovator, entrepreneur, and recognized leader in the IT, business travel, and medical and wellness travel industries and an expert on the administration of medical and wellness travel for governments, regions, self-insured employers, insurance companies, and more.