Benefits and Compensation

Bleisure Travel: An Exercise in Flexibility

When you mix business with leisure, you get an attractive new employee benefit: bleisure travel. Just what is it, and why would you offer it? For those answers, I spoke with expert Wen-Wen Lam.

Wen is the CEO and Founder of NexTravel, a travel management agency that specializes in this benefit. When I asked her to define bleisure, she said, “It’s when companies allow their employees to mix work travel with a little bit of play.” She continued, “When you’re on a work trip, for example, you can stay a couple extra days, or you’re able to tag things on because you’re already traveling so much and so frequently to do things like trade shows and conferences to facilitate the growth of your company.”

To be clear, the organization, in most cases, does not pay for the additional days of travel. Wen says, “Often, it’s not paid by the company, but it’s more the option to extend a trip, for example.” For some organizations, this may already seem like a no-brainer. But for others, this type of flexibility might be at odds with long-standing company policies. “A lot of companies would restrict policies. For example, some say that you have to be back on Friday, or something like that,” says Wen.

A Good Reason to Depart from Tradition

Just how big is this type of benefit? “I would say that it’s actually quite significant, to be honest,” said Wen. I asked her why bleisure was becoming so popular as an employee benefit. She answered, “I think recruiting and employee retention are very hot-button topics right now because unemployment is extremely low. People often use it as a recruiting tool.”

Bleisure is so effective for both retention and recruiting because of what it represents: flexibility. Organizations have been offering flexibility wherever they can. Whether it’s how much time off you can take, working from home, or staying a few days after business travel to see the sights, flexibility can be very popular.

Details and Considerations

If your organization is considering expanding its travel policies to allow for bleisure, make sure you take the following into consideration:

  1. Restricting how employees can pay while they are on trips (by using a company card only, for example) will have to be revisited for those days that are in addition to the company portion of the trip. Creating a policy that covers these precise scenarios will help your employees understand what is expected of them.
  2. Come up with a policy dealing with how extended hotel stays are handled. If the company card is used as the deposit when the employee checks in, you might require employees to create a second check-in with their own card for the extra days they will be staying. It can help avoid complicated reimbursement situations.
  3. The return flight would have already been paid for, so requiring employees to pay for a return flight if they stay longer is probably unfair (and will make such a benefit unpopular).
  4. Take into consideration that certain days of the week are more expensive for flights. Allowing employees to take enough days for their bleisure so that their return trip falls on a cheaper day can be a great way to save money. Conversely, if their return flight is made more expensive by extending their stay, you might suggest that your employees pay the difference. Again, having well-designed policies for these situations can help avoid a lot of confusion.
  5. If you want the benefit to be popular, you might do some research and provide employees traveling for business with notice of events happening in the general area at the same time.