“Bleisure,” or adding a leisure portion to a business trip, is a hot trend for many millennials. “If I’m already going to London for a meeting with X, Inc. on Thursday,” the thought process goes, “why not stay through the weekend to see Big Ben and chase some fish and chips down with a brew at a local pub?”
With 94 percent of travelers under 35 “more than” or “equally” likely to take a bleisure trip in the next few years than in the last decade, it is apparent that something has dramatically changed — and apparent that companies ought to adjust. Fast.
Two-thirds of millennials anticipate leaving their current job by 2020 because they feel they are overlooked by their employers. They perceive conflicts between their companies’ values and their own due to a lack of attention paid to their desires for flexibility and a work/life balance. Accommodating millennials and their hip, young value systems will be crucial to all businesses’ success. Based on recent data indicating that bleisure trips improve employer-employee relations and rejuvenate productivity, incorporating it into corporate travel policies could help to ameliorate friction significantly.
How millennial values will shape the future
Millennials already occupy the majority of the workforce. With the youngest of them around age 19, they are only going to dominate it further in the coming years, overtaking the roles of both producers and consumers. Therefore, adopting and catering to millennials’ principles and values will be crucial to the success of businesses down the line.
So what exactly are these values? For one, millennials want balance between their work lives and personal lives. Thanks to today’s technology, they are able to both demand and achieve this while maintaining high salaries better than any generation preceding them. The “Age of Distraction” that millennials are said to have brought upon the world is more to them an “Age of Effective Multitasking,” as the persistent buzzing in their pockets does not necessarily cause work to suffer. Having grown up with early forms of these buzzing technologies, millennials are actually used to switching their attention, and are therefore able to maneuver their personal and work lives almost simultaneously.
Millennials also prefer “doing” to “having” (i.e. they like to collect memories and experiences rather than ‘stuff’). According to Millennial expert Jeff Fromm, they are a generation “that is completely redefining what adventure means and are looking at the world through a more global perspective.” To monopolize on this so-called “experience economy,” all kinds of businesses are focusing on selling “experiences” to predominantly young consumer markets. Companies have been forced to try and incorporate sentimentality and other very ambiguous psychical qualities into commodities. Product designers know that if millennials encounter things positively, they are more likely to buy them. However, this kind of “encountering” relies on a lot more than a consumer simply liking something. The product must not only be visually or practically appealing, but also make one feel a certain way. Millennials don’t want to just have something, they want to genuinely enjoy it.
Though the millennial culture promotes obsessive use of technology while also pushing real-life adventure and experience, millennials are naturals at reconciling the two. They can use them to bring out the best in each other, for travel can in fact be easier and better with the help of technology. Being at least a little bit “plugged in” at all times can likewise allow for more opportunities to travel, and better experiences while traveling. Having Slack and Google Drive available in the App Store make the difference between working on projects in the office or abroad slight. Apps like Yelp and Landed ensure travelers can make plans in and navigate new locales with ease.
Millennials’ (1) desires for a work/life balance, (2) preferences for experiences over materials things, and (3) knack for using technology to find that balance and have those experiences have together led to spikes in the travel industry. Fromm also cites a U.N. report noting that there has been a near-30% increase in millennial tourism since just 2007. They are taking their work phones on leisure vacations already, so why shouldn’t they be able to sneak some leisure time in on a business trip?
(Keep in mind: millennials are also traveling because they have time on their hands. With only 26 percent married as of 2014, compared to the 36 and 48 percent of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers at the same age, millennials are capable of working both wherever and whenever. They are mixing business and leisure because they can, without kids or spouses waiting at home.)
How companies will benefit from embracing bleisure
…But about these scheming, unfaithful millennials. The Deloitte Millennial Survey that found that company loyalty is low for millennial groups also found that employers that actively encourage the work/life balance are the most successful in retaining millennial employees. So, really, the logic is quite simple.
- Companies want to keep their employees
- Most of companies’ employees are millennials
- Millennials don’t really want to stay with their current companies
- Bleisure makes millennial employees happy
- Keeping employees happy keeps them around
- Then Companies should embrace and facilitate bleisure in their corporate travel policies!
In addition to the clear positive benefits of retaining employees and keeping them happy, companies that were formerly worried about workers’ abilities to maintain productivity while being remote are now embracing a variety of technologies that make working remotely much easier. While Gen Xers once reveled in the wonders of E-mail, instant messaging, and BBM, millennials have Slack (a work-specific instant messenger and file sharer), Skype (live video chat), Google Drive (for collaborative projects) and many other modern marvels. These technologies are facilitating fully-functional and fully-remote teams across the globe (and many team members within them across the globe from one another).
Plus, again, millennials want to work remotely. A survey in 2015, reported on by Sarah Sutton Fell, demonstrated that 85 percent of millennials would ideally like to work remotely 100 percent of the time. That’s right. 85 percent of the largest generation in the workforce wants to skip out on offices altogether — and they would not be so eager to do so if they did not feel capable of doing it successfully. Before long, offices will be empty. It is up to companies to decide if they want that to be because their millennial employees skipped out on them, or because those employees are bringing in the dough from a place that makes them happier than the white-washed twenty-second floor cell they occupy now.
How to adopt and support bleisure policies properly
Presuming that most companies will opt for the latter, there are a few things that ought not to be overlooked when embracing bleisure. Decision makers need to first add “bleisure guidelines” to their company’s travel policies, and — this is very important — let employees know about it. According to research by Dan Peltier from Skift, only 14% of business travelers say that they are aware of a bleisure-accommodating policy at their company. Twenty-seven percent reported they “weren’t sure,” though many had been on bleisure trips already, regardless. Therefore, spreading the word about policy changes will result in not only a positive reaction from staff, knowing that their company is making an active effort to make them happy (“I have a cool boss”), but will also provide damage control from a corporate perspective. The more educated that employees are about policy, the more likely they are to abide by it with as few mistakes or breaches as possible.
As long as travelers agree that the cost of accommodations for leisure days are up to them to cover, adding days to their trip often does not cost the company anything extra. In fact, according to Alice Tew of Click Travel, changing the day that one travels could potentially save the company money if the day they opt for instead is a less popular travel date. Combine this with a sense of job satisfaction, better understanding of the travel city (where the company has clients, investors, or satellite offices) and some good R&R, and bleisure seems like the perfect thing for employees to “get away with” every once in awhile.
Defining the lines between business and leisure in advance will be critical, however. One should assume that if something can be confused, it will be. Therefore, there are many questions that companies along with their travel management companies (TMCs) or accountants need to address, such as:
- Does cost coverage end after the important meeting? The day after it?
- Are expenses still covered on the return date, though postponed?
- How should hotel bookings be arranged when split between business and leisure days? Can both kinds of bookings be made via corporate tools?
- Is there a limit to how many leisure days are allowed to be added on to business ventures?
- How exactly are expense reports handled when it comes to bleisure?
These will be important questions to consider when spelling out company policy, especially dealing with millennial travelers, whom Dan Ruch, in a Fast Company piece “How Millennials are Redefining Business Travel” reports already tend to spend more on extraneous things like room service and in-flight upgrades when the company’s buying. Clear processes, or perhaps tools, should be developed to ensure there is no confusion about who’s paying for what.
Another thing that all employers and employees should be in agreement about is liability. While company insurance might cover what takes place during the business portion of the trip, the majority of companies will not be gung-ho about taking responsibility for what their employees do in their private time on vacation. Concur.com recommends clearly defining the limits of what it calls business-associated leisure travel, asking: “are there any activities that should be off-limits for your business travelers, even in the leisure portion of their trip?” Activities that could potentially be high-risk, life-threatening, or reflect poorly on the company later fall into this category. Knowing whether or not one is covered for personal days can play a big role in one’s decision to take part in risky types of entertainment, but the company does have the ability to step in and say “no” to certain things from the start if they choose. (Maybe you can go to a strip club on your own time, but how is it going to look when you’re seen in one the day after shaking hands with an important client down the street?)
It will be extremely helpful to get TMCs on board. Oftentimes, the corporate rates found by travel management companies are lower than would-be leisure rates. Employees and given TMCs should both know clearly whether or not their tools can be used to book both “b” and “leisure” — and whether or not those same tools can be used to add significant others to parts of the journey. While allowing employees to take advantage of these discounts could bounce back as even greater perks for employers, it is, again and always said employers’ decision, and should be clearly stated to TMCs to keep everyone on the same page. Millennials, like other human beings, don’t tend to like confusion or tedious bickering over something that is unclear.
Using travel tech to enhance bleisure on all ends
As with all mash-ups, some things always seem to get lost when they come together. Brunch can’t cover all aspects of breakfast and lunch. Have you ever tried using a spork like the fork it promises to be? Yet, with bleisure, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Thanks to innovations in travel technology, there are ways for employers to best connect with traveling staff and the projects they are doing on site. There are ways for travelers to maximize the benefits and efficiency of their business time and to get the most of their personal time. There are even new corporate booking and travel management tools on the horizon (Hello, Claire!).
For these, check out some of our other articles:
How to write a Travel Policy
Travel the World While you Keep Working: Digital Nomads and Co-Working Trends
10 Devices That Will Make Your Business Trip Easier
Working Virtually Around the Globe: Managing and Working in a Virtual Team
The Ultimate Travel Bot List (Why not start your tech hacks right from the booking?)