“Business or leisure?”
It’s a question that’s been asked a million times at hotel check-in desks, car rentals, and airline ticket counters all over the US and the world: “Are you traveling for business or leisure?” Fun or work?
Now there’s a new answer: bleisure.
Otherwise known as a “bizcation” or “workcation,” bleisure is a growing trend in the travel world where business travelers tack on a few extra days at the beginning or end of a business trip for some “me time.” These extra days can be used to explore the destination more, relax and recharge, or just have a slow day or two to catch up on work.
While in the past bosses might have frowned on this (and employees were unsure of policy and too afraid to ask), over the past few years there’s been a shift in communication with boss and employee being on the same page regarding a bleisure extension. Last year saw 60% of business trips having a leisure component of some kind added, showing the trend is not only growing but also being actively adopted and promoted by companies. With $286 billion spent on domestic business travel in 2016, there’s definitely enough wiggle room in those travel budgets.
There are several reasons bleisure travel is starting to take off. First is the type of travelers making these trips: millennials. Growing in power and numbers in the workforce, the millennial generation is traveling more for business and going on more business trips than past generations, taking an average of 7.4 trips a year.
This feeds into the second reason, which is a better work-life balance, something that millennials have expressly prioritized regarding when and where they work. Millennial employees want to be seen and appreciated as valued members of a company, not replaceable cogs, so they apply to and work at companies that treat them as such, allowing them to balance work and their personal lives.
“The rise in bleisure travel correlates with the fact that more and more people want to create a better work-life balance for themselves,” says Hertz vice president of travel distribution sales Maurice Honor.
Employers have been grappling with this new workforce trend and, eager to retain personnel, are opening up to ideas and policies like bleisure as it prevents burnout and promotes loyalty — a happy employee is a better asset to the company overall, with increased productivity and a greater likelihood of staying at the company for the long-term. So if that calls for a few extra days of some off-time here and there (especially given that, as the first generation to enter the workforce with technology and the internet, millennials are constantly tuned in anyway) then companies are getting on board and adding bleisure policies, which vary from company to company on details like hotel stays, what can be discounted as a business expense, length of extension, etc.
And it’s not just hip start-ups full of young people that are incorporating bleisure: major corporations are taking notice, with influential players in the business travel markets like AMEX Global Business Travel writing and sharing blog posts and articles detailing the many benefits of allowing employees to take bleisure time. Top travel companies like Expedia have also been running studies on bleisure travel to demonstrate its benefits and scope.
“But wait. Won’t the employee still have to pay for their own hotel for the extra nights, as well as meals and stuff? If they’re in a major city, that won’t be cheap!”
True, adding a bleisure day or two will be on the travelers’ own dime. But they can still take advantage of some of the many perks of business travel that will reduce costs, like asking to use the company’s lodging rate at the hotel. A lodging rate is a reduced per-night fee negotiated between the hotel and the company that can save major bucks, and many companies are already implementing this into their bleisure policies for jet-setting employees to use.
Bleisure has already made itself at home in the US, with top domestic destinations like Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, and more. Smaller cities like Minneapolis or Tampa that may not otherwise receive huge tourist numbers, but do see a lot of business people, can also be appealing for a long weekend. While there may not seem like a ton to do, a craft brewery or trendy food hall is usually never far away, and personal trip expenses can be kept very low.
Adding a bleisure addition to international trips is also on the rise, with 80 percent of business trips abroad having been extended. With the company footing the bill for that international flight to Tokyo, one of the leading international bleisure destinations, why not?
So next time you’re planning for that big business trip, don’t be afraid to ask your boss if you take that extra day or two to do that outside-the-city hike you’ve always wanted or explore museums. Chances are they’ll approve it and maybe even encourage it. Bleisure is a fantastic way for companies to show appreciation for their employees but also for employees to broaden their worldview, which will make them better businesspeople, better travelers, and, most importantly, better people.