There are multiple reasons why so many travel managers and HR directors are leading the charge to adopt guidelines on “bleisure” travel — a rising phenomenon in which business travelers tack on leisure days to their business trip.
For starters, it’s a convenient way for business travelers to offset some of their personal travel costs. By combining the two trips, it’s also a more efficient use of their time, as they won’t have to waste a precious paid day off getting to the airport and taking a flight somewhere. And by spending more time on the ground recovering from jetlag and having a couple days to recharge their batteries, it’s also an effective cure for travel burnout.
What do all these perks add up to? Happier employees. And happier employees mean they’ll be more productive employees when they do return to the office. Not only that, but when company leaders demonstrate how much they value their travelers’ well-being and work-life balance, employees will be inclined to do a better job and also stay put in that job.
Speaking about the company’s flexible bleisure policy also can be compelling bait when luring new recruits, especially if the firm does not have the most generous vacation policy for fresh hires.
But wait, there’s more! Because business travelers may be avoiding peak air travel times and are more likely to secure a discounted rate for a longer hotel stay, the travel expenses the company is responsible for actually may be less than if their employees went strictly for business.
Plus, with business travelers spending more time exploring the place where they’ve landed, they’ll become more knowledgeable about the local culture and language of the very people they went out there to do business with, making it that much easier to build a genuine connection with their clients.
So, have we finally convinced you? Good. Let’s talk policy details.
As with any part of a company’s travel policy, there is no one-size-fits-all mold that will match your company’s needs perfectly. You must work that all out with the key decision makers. But to help you prepare for such an important meeting, here are some questions to bring to the table:
- First, the one that must be weighing on your mind: Who pays for what? The way most companies handle it: Employees cover all the costs associated with their personal time off, including accommodations, meals and ground transportation, and the company foots the bill for the days their travelers are there for business as well as the round-trip flight (or other mode of transportation). Employees are responsible for all costs during a weekend stay, unless they are required to be there then as part of their business.
- The trickier question isn’t the who but the how: How will all the expenses be handled and reported? Will the traveler use a corporate credit card for all the business expenses and then a personal one for all costs tied to the leisure aspect of the trip? Whatever you decide, establish clear processes to separate the two and ensure everything’s all properly documented.
- What if an employee wants to invite a plus-one (or two or three) to join them on the trip? The fact is, even if your company has not adopted any kind of bleisure policy yet, some travelers already may be inviting a family member or significant other to crash in the paid hotel room while they’re off doing business. Perhaps these guests even are ordering room service and/or putting other charges on the corporate card. This is all the more reason you need to set up parameters around bleisure travel, fast!
- At what point does the business portion of the trip end and the leisure travel begin? To avoid any ambiguity, clearly define what “leisure” is in the policy. The distinction also can help determine which expenses will (not) be covered by the company as well as what may count as a vacation day vs. a workday.
- What portion of the trip will and will not be covered by the company’s travel insurance? What is the company accountable for legally and morally? How can the company protect itself? You may want to stipulate that employees must adhere to the corporate travel policy for the entire duration of the trip and provide proof they have arranged their own travel insurance for their personal time off. You want to be sure both the company and traveler are protected in a worst-case scenario. Some companies cover their employees under their corporate travel insurance policy even for bleisure as a way to boost their travelers’ satisfaction.
- Should the number of vacation days the employee can take be limited to mitigate the risk, especially when visiting a high-risk destination? You very well may want to spell this out. In most cases, employees extend a trip by one to three days.
- Should any activities during the leisure portion of the trip be off-limits? Especially if the company is extending its insurance to cover the personal time off, you’ll want to consider limits on any high-risk, life-threatening activities — as well as any kind of entertainment that may reflect poorly on the company.
Once the above policy points are addressed, you also may need help figuring out how to make bleisure work logistically. This is where your travel management company (TMC) can be helpful. Here are a few questions to get the discussion going:
- Can the traveler book their hotel for the leisure part of their stay through the TMC’s online booking tool and, thus, receive the TMC’s discounted rate?
- Can the traveler book any air tickets for traveling companions through the TMC?
- Will the traveler (and companions) be covered by the TMC’s travel risk management services during the leisure portion of the trip?
The last but not least important step in creating a bleisure policy? Spreading the word. We assure you, this will be one of the more enjoyable emails to send to your employees — the kind that earns you high-fives as you walk down the halls.
And later this week, you can go a step further getting in their good graces by sending them the Atlas article we’ll be posting on bleisure tips for business travelers. Even if you do not have a policy in place yet, it’ll be the perfect opportunity to open up the conversation and solicit their feedback.