As the pandemic wanes, people are craving travel again, and more and more employees are beginning to realize the perks of combining business and leisure when traveling. Through blended “bleisure” trips, workers can save money on flights and tack on extra vacation days to the beginning or end of their business travel. This allows them to explore a museum or hit the beach in a new city without planning an entirely separate trip. It is a huge perk for employees who are worried about their financial health, especially in the midst of corporate budget constraints and a looming recession.
Americans are also growing increasingly aware that they have fewer vacation days overall than their European counterparts, who travel more frequently and report a better work/life balance. Mental and physical health is also a higher priority for many employees — especially younger generations. As newer generations join the workforce, they will likely look for organizations offering flexible paid time off and opportunities for blended travel.
Business challenges of bleisure travel
While there are many perks for employees, what does allowing corporate leisure travel look like for your company? Leaders may struggle to discern their employees’ business travel from leisure travel once the flight has been booked. And some may not feel it is fair to utilize company resources for bleisure trips.
This is understandable. After all, blended travel is a relatively new concept in the world of work. Leaders may, understandably, feel anxious about having less control and oversight over employees who are out of the office on a trip that could potentially erase the line between work and play.
Some may also be worried about productivity. It is already hard enough to keep an eye on employees who work from home, so keeping them on track when they are in a new place with new distractions can create apprehension. Again, all of these concerns are valid. But let’s also dive into the benefits your company could experience by allowing blended travel.
Company benefits of blended travel
By HR leading the way to encourage bleisure travel, organization could accomplish the following objectives:
Reduce stress and increase job satisfaction
Consistently working long hours with no rest from work can quickly lead to burnout, but too much rest and PTO can lead to a lack of work productivity and missed deadlines. Employees who partake in leisure travel can take time to explore and relax, making work more enjoyable and less stressful. This can lead to a happier workforce and improved mental health, which can translate into higher productivity levels. A study from FlexJobs and Mental Health America found that 56% of employees believe more work flexibility would improve their mental health.
By extending their stay at a destination, employees can save the company money on transportation and accommodations and potentially earn loyalty program points that they can use on future business trips. Even if employees are required to pay for extra days of lodging, discounts are often available for extended stays, allowing them to save a bit of money. By utilizing flexible employee policies, businesses can also benefit from a more efficient travel process, as flexible return dates allow the company to reduce its overall travel spend by optimizing flight costs and taking advantage of low fares through dynamic flight-pricing options.
Leisure travel—where employees can encounter new experiences, people, and places—has the ability to create neural pathways in our brains that can lead to new ideas and ways of thinking.
So, such trips can inspire creativity, which can lead to better job performance when employees return to work.
But, according to a survey by Sorbet, Americans didn’t use 55% of their PTO days last year, an increase of 27 percentage points since 2019. The survey also revealed that people do not feel comfortable asking managers for time off. By creating a bleisure policy, organizations can address this concern and improve creativity.
See also: Concerned about employee wellbeing? 4 ways an FSA or HSA can help
Updating company policy to regulate blended travel
If your company is moving toward allowing leisure travel, HR can make a few tweaks to the business travel policy that can make all the difference for avoiding headaches and mitigating apprehension. Consider the following changes:
- Limit overnight hotel stays to the day of arrival and the last day of meetings as long as those meetings end at a reasonable time. If meetings extend into the evening, consider paying for an additional night for your employees.
- Any charges from flight changes will be on the employee. If an employee wants to extend their stay and rearrange their flight for personal time, notify them that they will be responsible for the cost as it no longer falls under business expenses.
- If your employee gets hurt doing something outside of the approved travel days, state that it won’t be your responsibility as a company. Ensure you have their business and personal days well-documented before they leave for their trip. Do not approve any injury or loss claims beyond approved business travel days.
- If employees need travel insurance for those extra days, it is on the employee’s own dime.
In short, with some smart changes, you might find blended travel isn’t so much a stress as it is an unexpected benefit. It provides an opportunity for your employees to relax, explore and gain inspiration without increasing costs or sacrificing productivity. As a result, the company gains from improved morale among staff members who can finally balance the demands of both work and play.