A few years ago, on his maiden tour, Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges made an amusing observation about a portmanteau word that had recently entered the contemporary British lexicon. “Chillax,” he says. “They’ve combined chill and relax to create the most annoying word in the English language.” Bromance and sexting are other examples likely to frustrate the more traditional among us. You may have noticed the travel sector has also welcomed the fusion of two terms into its own vocabulary. Bleisure travel, it seems, is discussed at every industry conference and forum.
It’s a pretty simple concept: an employee combines some vacation time with a business trip. What’s new about that? Haven’t people being doing that for years? Well, to a certain extent. Reports published over recent years reveal the practice is becoming more common. One study published last year by a serviced apartment company claimed that eight out of 10 travellers add at least one day’s vacation to every long-haul business trip.
As bleisure becomes more prevalent, travel managers are waking up to the fact that there could be, depending on their travel policy, a corporate issue surrounding duty of care, traveller tracking and insurance. For example: an employee is sent to New York from Tuesday to Thursday for meetings. They tag a few extra days on to visit Manhattan, returning back to the UK on Monday morning. They’ve used the company online booking tool (OBT) to make all the arrangements, though only used the company credit card to pay for the hotel while on official business (they use their personal card for the extra days). Who is responsible for the traveller’s wellbeing over the weekend? What if they were to lose valuable possessions, or be injured or killed? Is the company accountable? Will the insurance cover the leisure segment of the trip? And this example is relatively modest. We’ve spoken to travel managers while researching this topic and found that significant numbers of people attach up to a week’s holiday to a business trip.
One travel manager with whom we spoke admitted to adding some holiday to a business trip to North America. She had no idea whether or not she was insured until we posed the question. After putting a call into the company’s insurance company she was told that no more than two extra nights would be covered.
One of the global banks, which boasts a very mature policy, said its employees need their own insurance for personal travel and require prior approval if they’re using company systems to add holiday time to a business trip. Another interesting example came from one of the world’s largest professional services firms. The travel manager said if the leisure element takes place in the middle of a trip the company insurance will provide cover (though not for things like skiing and motor sports, etc) and the organisation will fulfill its duty of care obligations. Anything else becomes the employees’ responsibility.
Travel managers who have not considered how to address bleisure in the company policy should do so as soon as possible as the trend is simply set to gather pace. The policy should offer clear guidelines on what is and what is not permissible. Be clear on what the insurance company will cover; failure to do so could cost the business, or its employees, dearly.