In theory, giving your corporate travelers the green light to tack on leisure travel to their business trip — aka “bleisure” — is a win-win situation. Not only can it boost their job satisfaction, but it also can deepen business relationships as your travelers explore the city and gain greater insight into the culture of the clients they’re meeting there.
In practice, though, bleisure travel can get kind of complicated. Beyond resolving some of the trickier questions — like how expenses will be handled and at what point does a business trip turn into vacation time — there are two points that should be covered when adopting a bleisure policy: duty of care and duty of loyalty.
Duty of care, of course, is the company’s responsibility to implement a risk management program for their travelers’ safety and well-being while they are on the road for work. Duty of loyalty, a lesser known concept, is an employee’s obligation toward the organization to refrain from activities and behaviors on a business trip that would be contrary to their employer’s best interests.
Basically, it boils down to what responsibilities the company has toward the travelers and vice versa.
So what exactly are the company’s duty of care obligations when their travelers’ leisure trips begin? Each company will have to come to their own conclusions, but whatever guidelines are created need to be clearly communicated to travelers.
At the very least, you should be capturing your travelers’ total trip itinerary (business + leisure) so you can reach out and locate them if an emergency arises. And be transparent about what protection travelers will and won’t have for the leisure portion of the trip so they can purchase their own insurance and take other necessary precautions.
No doubt, working through some of the duty of care issues tied to a bleisure trip can raise difficult questions. For example, what’s the organization’s responsibility when one of its business travelers has an emergency during the leisure component of their trip? And does your answer change if that emergency was connected somehow to the traveler’s own reckless behavior, like drunk driving or an extreme sporting accident?
Enter duty of loyalty
A firm should adopt duty of loyalty rules that set clear boundaries around activities that could be potentially high-risk, life-threatening or reflect poorly on the company while travelers are on a business trip, whether it has a leisure component or not. Make these guidelines part of the larger travel policy and ensure your employees accept and acknowledge their role by having them sign off on the terms.
Admittedly, setting up duty of loyalty parameters can be delicate from an HR perspective, especially when looking at it through the bleisure travel lens. On the one hand, you want to make sure your travelers are not engaging in risky behaviors that in any way can harm themselves or the company’s reputation, but how do you limit what a traveler does during their own free time? And how do you do so without coming across as moral dictators?
That’s where duty of care enters again. When travelers see you are setting up such parameters as a way to protect their own safety and well-being, they will be much more receptive.
Make it a part of their training
We also recommend educating less experienced business travelers — particularly your millennial travelers, who may have done a lot of jet-setting and backpacking on their own but have less professional mileage — about the dangers of engaging in risky behaviors when they’re on the road, especially in certain parts of the globe where societal norms are different.
This lesson may be tied to your duty of care/travel risk management training session and can be a course they take online, a video they view or a workshop they actively participate in. You might even bring in someone from your security team or a travel risk management supplier to lead the discussion.
The workshop might entail presenting real-life cautionary tales and illustrating the impact the risky behaviors had on the employee or organization. You also could turn it into a bit of a game, presenting various scenarios and asking employees what they would do in each situation.
One topic that certainly should be covered during training: excessive alcohol consumption. Particularly when outside familiar territory, overindulging can lead to all sorts of trouble, from assault to theft. And another subject that ties in: the dangers of welcoming the company of strangers.
Finally, one last point to consider as you develop your duty of loyalty guidelines: Even when travelers do get to enjoy their own personal time during a business trip, it should not be forgotten that it is their work that has given them the privilege of being there, and their professional hat really should never be set down when traveling on (mostly) the company’s dime.