Thanks to the rising trend of ‘bleisure,’ more and more employees are looking to incorporate leisure into their business trips. In fact, according to a study released by the GBTA, over one-third of North American business travelers extended a work trip for leisure, with the most common reasons being to visit a destination of interest (43%) or see a new destination (38%). Other reasons include wanting a less expensive way to take a vacation (34%) or needing time away from home or work (34%).
Regardless of the motivator, the growing significance of bleisure is showing no signs of slowing down—and for organizations who choose to embrace it, it’s important to think about its relevance in the scope of your travel risk management and duty of care initiatives. Not sure where to start? Here are eight important considerations:
1. Set Expectations: Nobody likes (work) surprises. Encourage employees to make their plans clear to supervisors well in advance so colleagues and business associates aren’t surprised to see a fellow employee surrounded by their children or significant other. This not only helps avoid unnecessary confusion and misperceptions, but also provides employers with ample opportunity to create a paper trail in case it is ever needed.
2. Avoid Ambiguity: Make a clear distinction between what is considered personal time vs. business time during a trip, and outline exactly when the business portion ends. This crucial distinction can also help determine business expenses vs. personal expenses and what should be submitted as a vacation day vs. a regular workday.
3. Share Expense Guidelines: The age-old question: who pays for what? A common practice is that employees are expected to cover all costs associated with the leisure portion of the trip, whereas the employer will pay for business trip expenses, including the transportation costs to and from the original destination. Meaning, if an employee’s plans represent a significant diversion from their original itinerary (say, if their business trip began in NYC, but ends in Hawaii), then travelers may be expected to compensate their employers for the difference.
4. Define Payment Protocols: Aside from the ‘what,’ it’s also important to outline exactly how expenses should be handled. For example, will the traveler use a corporate credit card for all business expenses and a personal credit card for all leisure expenses? There’s no right or wrong here, but the key is to define the guidelines up front to help avoid discrepancies (and potential headaches for your finance department) later.
5. Set Appropriate Boundaries: While parameters and contingencies will vary by organization, to help mitigate the level of risk, many employers choose to limit the number of days an employee can take for leisure purposes and/or stipulate the traveler’s vacation plans cannot take them to a different destination. If traveling to destinations deemed as high-risk, organizations may choose to discourage the individual from extending the trip for leisure purposes altogether.
6. Define the Booking Process: Should employees make their leisure arrangements (and their travel companions’) through your company’s preferred suppliers and booking channels? While most travelers are comfortable utilizing the plethora of third-party sites and booking apps available, your organization may want to maintain the same level of oversight for both sides of the spectrum. One way to encourage compliance is to consider extending corporate travel discounts to employee’s vacation plans (bonus: this is a great morale booster as well). If your company works with a travel management company, it could be worth seeking their advice regarding how to best manage this process.
7. Consider the Big Picture: In the same GBTA survey cited earlier, 12% of travelers experienced an issue where they needed assistance during their last bleisure trip. Which begs a very important question: who is legally and financially responsible for employees—and their dependents—if they need emergency assistance during a trip? More specifically, are there portions of a trip not covered by your organization’s assistance and insurance programs? Some employers may struggle to answer this difficult question up front and simply choose to ignore it—however, neglecting to define when your obligations end (and if they ever really do…) is crucial for protecting your travelers and your organization.
8. Fill in the Blanks: While it’s your organization’s responsibility to establish and communicate formalized bleisure policies, the quid pro quo should be employees do their part to understand what these policies actually entail and make any additional arrangements as necessary. For example, if employees are only covered by your organization’s assistance and insurance programs for the business portions of their trips, it may be worth setting the expectation that they arrange for their own coverage for their vacation days.
By tackling these potential grey areas head-on with clear, manageable and realistic guidelines, you’re well on your way to reinforcing responsible bleisure habits amongst your staff.