The bleisure challenge

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A few months ago, my company sent me to an international conference in Berlin. I hit the jackpot, I thought. The German capital is one of my favorite cities in the world, and even before I’d booked the flight, I was imagining myself taking an afternoon stroll in Tiergarten.

Wait a sec! A business trip is not a vacation, I reminded myself. This is a reality the trip agenda would soon confirm. With two days full of keynotes, networking events and meetings inside a gigantic, windowless conference hall, my idea of a picnic in Berlin’s gardens vanished. In fact, the event could be taking place in any other city in the world, and I’d know no difference other than the odd schnitzel and leberkäse.

I was not ready to give up though. Could I combine work with a few vacation days? The timing was right. I could attend the conference (Wednesday and Thursday) and then enjoy a long weekend in Berlin before flying back home on Sunday evening. Did I hear ‘bleisure’?

Bleisure, or extending business trips with leisure days, has garnered lots of attention in the last few years. In 2016, nearly four in ten business travelers in North America added vacation days to their work trip according to a report of the Global Business Travel Association. In theory, bleisure benefits both employees and employers. As an employee, one can enjoy a more relaxed schedule and make time for some fun. In return, companies can boost job satisfaction and even make some savings, for example, when travelers take cheaper flights on less popular days, or get a discounted rate for a longer hotel stay.

It’s a win-win situation. However, as much as bleisure is an opportunity, it’s also a challenge. Before making bleisure the norm, companies must resolve a series of tricky questions to ensure their duty of care obligations are met. How can you, as a company, implement a bleisure policy?

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Adopting an effective bleisure policy

Part work, part free time, the rules that govern bleisure fall in a grey area. At what point does a business trip turn into a vacation? Before approving bleisure trips, you must establish clear guidelines that cover the following points.

  • Address bleisure in your travel policy – This will set the boundaries of bleisure, establishing, for example, how many leisure days can be added to a business trip.
  • Be transparent about your insurance policy – Travelers must be aware if they need to purchase their own insurance for the leisure porting of the trip. This will also determine accountability if travelers experience an issue during their bleisure trip.
  • Make clear distinction between personal time and business time – Outline how the booking process needs to be done and clarify how expenses will be handled. Answer basic questions like are taxi rides covered when returning for the leisure part of the trip?
  • Annotate your traveler’s complete itinerary, including leisure days – If an emergency arises, you might need to reach out and locate travelers
  • Inform travelers well of their responsibilities. What are the obligations travelers have toward the company during a bleisure trip? Even if they enjoy their own free time, you want to make sure travelers do not engage in risky behaviors or situations that can hard the company’s reputation.

Mixing business and leisure offers significant advantage for everyone. By adopting clear guidelines, all parties will know where they stand and what their obligations are. In the end, it boils down to determining who is accountable for each part of the bleisure trip, and who is not.

Get it right, and you boost staff moral, job appreciation and retention, and potentially lower your business travel costs too.