Bleisure: mixing business and leisure

WIRED magazine executive editor Greg Williams introduces ‘bleisure’, the travel buzzword that’s all about getting the most out of your business trip

There was a time, in the last century, when business travel meant a few days spent in a luxurious hotel, and travel arrangements featured the word ‘premium’ or ‘executive’. Being away on business was, frankly, more comfortable than being at home where children reigned supreme and there was always some chore or other to be done. Then, as budgets narrowed and airlines became as keen to tighten their belts as corporate accounts departments, going away for work lost its allure. Business travel became arduous, a test rather than a reward. Crossing continents for a single meeting became commonplace; and the advent of smartphones and remote servers meant we were connected to the office at all times, a constant drumbeat of meeting requests and emails.

The era of ‘always-on’ technology has, however, meant an evolution in the business of business travel: the dawn of ‘bleisure’. This pantomime horse of a term – the front end of the word ‘business’, the rear ‘leisure’ – means a merging of the two; a burgeoning trend. The mindset of the business traveller has shifted, with six out of ten of us now adding leisure days to our business trips, while another 20% would like to do so.

There have been behavioural shifts in recent years, too. For one thing, most of us go out of our way to spend more time with our families, not less. So if we have to travel, why not take them with us? The upside of flying becoming a more prosaic experience is that low-cost airlines have boomed, making it affordable for your partner and kids to join you. And increasing numbers of inexpensive boutique hotels with high standards of service mean your base doesn’t have to be a drab, franchised institution that smells vaguely of the previous night’s buffet – so they may actually want to. While you’re attending that sales conference, your partner can discover the delights of Finnish massage, visit Cologne Cathedral or shop for rare manga comics in Tokyo.

Indeed, 83% of business travellers use some of the time they’re away to explore the city they’re staying in. Speaking as a manager, I’d find it strange if a member of my team didn’t explore their destination – curiosity and a sense of adventure are important attributes that enrich an individual and make them a significant asset to the team. Wandering through a market or taking in an art gallery can only make people happier and more rounded.

So how do you get the most out of your business trip?

If you are required to travel for work, embrace the opportunity – manage your time well and you’ll boost your productivity and wellbeing. After all, you’ll be no good to anyone if all you’ve done is had a coffee with a client at an airport hotel before battling your way back through security, especially if you’ve had to cross time zones. Today, any decent hotel will have good free WiFi. Better to spend a few focused hours on email before a leisurely dinner at a local eatery than rush back to an empty office in your home territory, frazzled and rueful. Research your hotel carefully to ensure it caters for all – conference facilities should not be incompatible with late check-out and babysitting. Stay on in the destination and show the kids something they’ll remember – nearly 97% think they’d gained cultural experience and knowledge by adding leisure days to business travel.

Think of it as maximising your time. You’re being more industrious while enriching yourself, which makes you a better asset to the company. Being constantly connected isn’t just about your device; it can mean investing in yourself as well.

Plan on taking the kids with you? Find some inspiration for things to do with the family in New York and Sydney.

All figures taken from BridgeStreet Global Hospitality’s Bleisure Report 2014, a survey of 640 travellers from Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific 

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