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Is "Bleisure Travel" Redefining Work-Life Balance?

Grace Lower | Dec 21, 2020

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Even if you haven’t heard the term “bleisure travel,” chances are, you’re familiar with the concept.

This silly-sounding portmanteau describes what’s become a growing phenomenon: mixing business and leisure into a single trip. 

Named “the biggest business travel trend” by TravelPulse, bleisure is more than just a temporary fad. It can be a practical, cost-effective way to see the world and maximize paid time off. After all, if a company is already flying its employee to an off-site meeting in San Diego, Milan, or Beijing, why shouldn’t that employee enjoy the destination while they’re there?

Bleisure has caught the attention of many in the travel industry, especially given its recent surge in popularity. Expedia’s “Unpacking Bleisure Traveler Trends” report indicated a 40 percent increase in bleisure among US business travelers since 2016. Additionally, Egencia’s 2018 Travel Trends Report noted that 68 percent of business travelers take at least one bleisure trip per year, with 74 percent of North American business travelers considering bleisure travel within the next six months.

Popularity aside, this travel trend is blurring the lines between work and play. In addition to the usual challenges of planning a vacation, bleisure-travelers-to-be must take into account company policies, managerial expectations, financial implications, and obligations to loved ones. For an increasing number of travelers, that extra planning is well worth the reward.

The value of work-life balance 

As glamorous as business travel might sound, it comes with its share of downsides. Long days in transit, limited dining options, and time away from loved ones can add to the regular stresses of work. Travel can also bleed into an employee’s evenings and weekends — especially if there are transportation delays or long-running meetings. Beyond the horror stories you might hear from “road-warriors,” a number of studies show a connection between frequent business trips and poor health outcomes. 

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news for business travel. A 2019 report from National Car Rental indicated that bleisure trips can significantly benefit employee wellbeing. Of the 1,000 business travelers surveyed, 93 percent of bleisure travelers reported high levels of satisfaction with their quality of life, compared to 75 percent of conventional business travelers. Additionally, 87 percent of bleisure travelers were satisfied with their level of work/life balance, versus just 64 percent of their non-bleisure counterparts.

From mental health to job satisfaction, the facts seem clear: a little bit of relaxation can be well worth the extra time away from the office.

Limitations and considerations

Bleisure travel can complicate standard time-off practices by blurring the divide between remote work and a paid vacation. Before planning the leisure portion of their trip, employees should understand their organization’s travel and vacation policies. For instance, what systems are in place for managing and reporting personal travel expenses? Is an employer responsible for providing assistance in the event of an emergency? For long-distance trips, it may be necessary for an employee to purchase supplemental travel insurance, especially for extended leisure travel. Regardless of the organization, employees should discuss relevant policies with their managers and related HR personnel before combining personal travel with business.

And then there’s the issue of company culture. Despite bleisure’s growing popularity, it is not an accepted practice in all workplaces. Of the 9,000 travelers surveyed by Egencia, 20% reported passing up on an opportunity to take off extra time during a business trip, due to concerns that their boss would disapprove. Additionally, National Car Rental’s report indicates that 45 percent of millennial bleisure travelers feel they should avoid telling others — including their bosses — about taking time for leisure while on a business trip. For some employees, this dynamic can make bleisure trips less desirable than a traditional vacation.

Setting boundaries

With smartphones, tablets, and cloud-based file management systems, taking work on the road is easier than ever. Today’s travelers can check emails and ongoing projects no matter where they are. When it comes to bleisure travel, it can be challenging to strike a balance between work and time off. Since most bleisure travel centers on a professional project or event, employees might feel obligated to put in extra work long after the business day has come to a close.

For the best possible trip, travelers should consider setting boundaries around their work time and leisure time. After confirming their availability with their manager or colleagues, bleisure travelers might try putting an out of office message on emails, limiting phone communications to emergencies only, and logging out of any IM services. Restricting access to workplace communications is an easy way keep the leisure portion of a bleisure trip stress-free.

If going entirely cold turkey on work tasks isn’t possible, the next best option is to set dedicated times to check in on emails and projects. As Mark Twain so aptly put it “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” If possible, try treating work tasks like the proverbial live frog: get those to-do items done first thing to free up the rest of the day for relaxation and fun.

As the world becomes increasingly connected, business travelers are making the most of their time away from the office. Bleisure travel gives employees the chance to take advantage of the cultural and culinary treasures of their destinations — but beyond that, it allows them to come back to work feeling refreshed and present. While some workplaces are still adjusting to this trend, when done correctly, bleisure can lead to happier employees and a more joy-filled workplace. And with outcomes like those, this travel trend could be here to stay. 

About the Author

Grace Lower

Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

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