There’s a disturbing trend in media that’s not going away, and that’s the blending of two words that normally have nothing to do with each other. Hence, we have the term “bleisure,” which is not a symptom of a life-threatening disease, or a terribly-named band.
It means the mixture of “business” and “leisure” when traveling for work.
Present-day business people tend to blend work into their lives 24/7, checking emails in the middle of the night, taking work calls at odd hours. We’ve been doing the reverse for years, too—personal calls at the office, wedding planning in your cubicle. It was inevitable for this mixture to extend to business travel.
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And why not? If you’re sent to a different city, state or country on behalf of your company, you’re not necessarily working 24/7. You might as well take advantage of this chance to see the sights, visit any local relatives or relax during your time off.
Travel industry professionals have seen the trend growing. First coined in 2007, the term "bleisure," or the practice of enjoying personal time on a business trip, has been popping up more frequently to describe travelers' practices as our digital world keeps us connected. But we're not just talking about catching a Broadway play after a long day of meetings in New York City. Business travelers have been adding extra days or even up to a week to their business trips to take advantage of the travel opportunities.
Last year, Bridgestreet Global Hospitality did a study called “The Bleisure Report.” In their survey of 640 international business travelers, the company measured how many people added extra days to a business trip, how often and whether or not they brought a family member or friend along with them, among other things.
Nearly half of people surveyed reported having added personal time to a business trip. It makes sense—it gives you time to rest and relax, and something to look forward to other than dreary air travel and a conference room (no matter how delightful your clients or coworkers might be). In an Associated Press interview, one PR professional remembered business travel of yesteryear with dismay, “I would literally be in a meeting room in the hotel and then go to the airport," said Jeanne Achille.
But adding a day to a London business itinerary to visit a museum made that trip a happier one for her. People do it for many different reasons: to try local cuisines, take advantage of the fact that the company paid the airfare already or see more of the world. Businesses can benefit from their employees’ increased cultural awareness of the locations employees are sent, not to mention avoiding potential burnout from too much grueling travel with no downtime.
In fact, the hospitality industry has taken note. Knowing that business travelers are likely to want some down time, hotels advertise work and play packages to potential guests. A growing trend for hotels is to offer the group meeting rate to guests for a few days before and after a corporate meeting or conference. That way, the business traveler can tack on days to visit local attractions, or take some time off to join the family that came along for the ride and has been playing all day while she was in meetings.
Although the average age of business travelers is 49.5, people ages 25-34 represented strongly in this study. Not surprisingly, younger travelers were more likely to take a “bleisure” trip in the next five years. “This is a generation that are natural inhabitants of the digital, blurred lifestyle and are very open to bleisure travel,” notes the report. That segment is more likely to want to explore new cities and seek out new cultural experiences, too.
But pay close attention—even though the lines between work and play can be blurred, few companies have clear rules about what expenses are covered. Purdue University’s policy is online, and states “Travelers should exercise special care not to seek reimbursement for expenses that could be construed as personal.” Find out if your company has a written policy before you start tacking on a lot of personal time and expense to your business trip, or use common sense and work it out with your manager to make sure both you and your company benefit from the occasion.
Although I'm guilty of using the mashup "staycation" more often than should be allowable, I hereby submit that once you read this article, decide that business and leisure are simply two parts of your beautiful, complicated life and ask your boss if it's okay to stay an extra day or two the next time you have to meet clients in Canada. And then erase the word "bleisure" from your mind forever.