How to integrate ‘bleisure’ into your corporate policy

The bleisure trend (combining business and leisure) is taking South Africa by storm. An increasing number of corporates have indicated they are ready to spice up their business trips with some leisure time.

According to a survey recently conducted by Thompsons Travel among its most loyal corporate clients, more than two-thirds (67%) of respondents have already combined business and leisure trips in the past. And they’ve enjoyed it so much, they’re keen to embark on other bleisure trips in the next three years.

Let’s face it: with so many professionals adopting an ‘always on’ working style — toting their business mobile devices everywhere they go — the blurred lines between business and pleasure just make sense.

Businesses have definitely seen the positive impact bleisure can have on the motivation, satisfaction and productivity of their employees. However, many companies have yet to address the bleisure subject in their travel policies.

There are a few reasons why companies should consider integrating this subject in the corporate policy. Firstly, there’s the prickly issue of who will foot the bill when the employee decides to change into his swimming trunks for a few days on the beach after his meetings are done and dusted.

Although the vast majority of South African corporate staff (83%) say they are happy to pay for their leisure extension out of their own pockets, it’s better to outline all the details clearly in the travel policy to avoid any confusion.

Another important issue to address is travel risk management. Who is ultimately financially and legally responsible when the traveller extends his or her business trip and there is an emergency ‘off the clock’?   

According to a recent Collinson study, almost a third (31%) of companies say employees aren't protected during those bleisure days by the company's travel risk policy. It’s a scary thought that employees could be spending added time abroad in the misguided belief that they are protected when they’re not. And therefore, it is important to also address this issue in the corporate travel policy.

How can you include bleisure in your corporate policy? Here are 10 tips to get you started:

  1. Announce company-wide that you will be adding bleisure guidelines into the corporate travel policy.
  1. Establish clear guidelines for what is considered leisure and what isn’t. These guidelines can be the basis to indicate who will pay for what.
  1. Establish clear processes and tools to separate business expenses from leisure expenses.
  1. Add guidelines from the company’s insurer or broker on what exactly is, or is not, backed by the terms and conditions of the company insurance policy.
  1. If the company decided to cover the employee during leisure days under the company’s risk management policy, stipulate that employees will only be covered for travel that doesn’t represent a significant departure from their original travel itinerary. High-risk destinations should be off limits.
  1. If the company provides insurance for employees during their leisure break, employees must agree to adhere to certain duty-of-care measures, such as risk assessment and tracking.
  1. Consider limiting the number of days that can be extended/ taken for leisure purposes to contain the risk to the individual and/or the company.
  1. Decide whether there are any limits to leisure travel activities. Clearly outline which activities are off limits for business travellers, even during the extended days of their trip.
  1. Give clear guidelines of where corporate travellers can book their additional leisure days. Advise them to use the corporate booking tool or to chat to the TMC.
  1. Share special holiday deals or leisure add-on options with your employees. Our study showed that more than half of companies don’t communicate these specials with their staff.