TAKE BUSINESS TRAVEL, add in a dash of leisure and you get the portmanteau of ‘bleisure’ — a rising trend in the travel industry.
Work trips, once strictly just for business, are now being blended with extra days to take in sightseeing and downtime.
Research from the University of East London (UEL), commissioned by London City Airport, suggested that most people agree that bleisure travel increases their well-being when they return to work, while roughly three in five say such trips contribute to increased productivity.
A further survey by the National Car Rental 2019 State of Business Travel, released this month, found that half of millennials leverage bleisure travel as a work perk and book a holiday around a business trip.
From my own experience, as both a benefactor and beneficiary of bleisure, it’s a fantastic opportunity for both the employee and employer.
If you are considering introducing new travel policies in your business, here are my five key benefits of mixing business with leisure.
Travelling for work can be a tiring, inconvenient and stressful experience, with very little downtime. A soulless airport lounge, a crowded conference hall and a generic hotel room are very often the only ‘sightseeing’ aspects of a typical business trip.
Allowing staff the opportunity to combine business with leisure activities, including inviting family members to join them, can help prevent burnout and reduce stress levels.
It can also reduce loneliness. For example, if work takes you to some amazing destinations, adding on days for leisure before or after the trip allows the opportunity to invite loved ones to share the experience.
It means for the employee, they only have to buy a return ticket for their wife, husband, partner, child or friend, and any additional accommodation costs that may be incurred, while for the employer, they get a more productive and happier worker. It’s a win-win.
The UEL survey backs this up, revealing that almost two-thirds of respondents were more productive following bleisure trips.
Strengthen team building
For a staff member in Ireland, it can be difficult to forge relationships and strengthen bonds with a work colleague in the USA, Australia or China.
Getting the opportunity when visiting global offices to interact with international colleagues outside of work, allows for invaluable team building.
Deepen client relationships
If all you get to see on a business trip is an airport, taxi and hotel room, there is little opportunity to experience the culture of the region you are visiting. Bleisure trips allow foreign travellers a better understanding of local customs and etiquette, and often even the language.
If you are travelling solo, joining a tour group can be a good and safe option to fully immerse yourself in the city you are travelling to. This chance for greater insight into a client’s country can help foster deeper relationships.
Improve retention rates
Millennials dominate the workforce and there is a focus on what businesses can do to retain this generation.
It is well-publicised that millennials place high value in a having a good work-life balance. Bleisure is an effective and progressive incentive programme that companies can easily introduce, one which can improve retention rates, attract best talent and allow for competitive advantage.
Reduce corporate travel expenditure
Travelling at weekends and off-peak hours can be more economically advantageous than travelling during peak travel periods. Offering employees the flexibility to tag on leisure time either before, or after, their business commitments can mean significant savings on travel costs for the company.
The next steps
With real benefits of bleisure travel in terms of employee well-being and productivity, forward-thinking businesses have a real win-win opportunity with the introduction of this perk.
If you are considering offering the option, firstly, achievable policies need to be drawn up on the combination of leisure and business which clearly defines the parameters of such trips and the company’s liability.
These should outline behaviour, duty of care, and travel arrangements for family and friends. Insurance details should also be covered so that both the traveller and the company are protected.
Cathy Burke is general manager of Travel Counsellors Ireland.