Business travel has returned in 2022, as more people hit the road after two years of work-from-home arrangements due to the pandemic. Travel industry experts also report in the media that there is an increase in the number of people who are blending their business travel with personal vacation or leisure — a practice that is being called a “workation” or “bleisure.” While employees have been quick to adopt the blurring of boundaries between work and private time, many companies have yet to formalize corporate travel policies to accommodate employee bleisure trips.
“Know before you go” can save employees headaches when it comes time to file expenses.
If you are getting used to colleagues dialing in to conference calls from exotic and fun locations – think Cancun, Orlando, Las Vegas, Honolulu – then you are a witness to the rising trend of bleisure travel. Around 85% of Americans have travel plans this fall and many say they will take their work with them for bleisure – either by adding extra days onto a business trip to enjoy the destination or remotely working during the day and vacationing at night.
A recent survey of 1,700 U.S.-based users of TripIt, a popular travel planning app from SAP Concur, found that 23% have plans for a bleisure trip in the year ahead. According to SAP Concur, the average length of a trip is 14% longer in 2022 compared to 2019, which suggests that travelers are now combining business and leisure travel or combining multiple business trips.
“While the concept of bleisure travel is nothing new, what is new is its prevalence,” said Jen Moyse, vice president of Product for TripIt from SAP Concur and author of the travel advice column, Dear Jen. She said the pandemic forced employees to blend their business and personal lives. “As the boundaries between work and office blurred, I think this opened many people’s eyes to the possibility of similar blending in other aspects of their lives, including travel.”
Work-life balance has become more fluid. “While it used to be two big chunks of time, it now seems to be about multiple smaller chunks that alternate, and that makes things like bleisure travel seem more possible,” Moyse said.
Managing Expectations for a Carefree Trip
According to a survey of 1,800 U.S.-based TripIt users, top states for bleisure travel include Florida, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Washington,and Texas. Nearly half (41%) of American travelers are planning bucket-list trips in the year ahead, according to another recent survey from TripIt. Of those, 57% of travelers have an international destination in mind and 30% have their eye on Europe. Moyse’s tip: “With the euro and U.S. dollar at parity, it’s a great time for U.S.-based travelers to head to Europe!”
In a SAP Concur survey, travelers said they worked from a café or coffee shop (70%), a lobby (64%), a waiting room (57%), a restroom (39%) and poolside (31%) during business trips.
However, even the best bleisure itineraries can quickly unravel as misunderstandings mount if travel companions and office mates are not fully informed. Moyse offers some advice: “Setting expectations up front with your employer, colleagues and those you’re traveling with is key. Be transparent about what you expect your working hours to be, or when you have important calls scheduled. Similarly, let your team know if you’ll be taking a call from a non-traditional location, or that you won’t be available at certain hours while you’re sightseeing with your travel partners.”
Making Sense of Travel Guidelines for Reimbursement
The same survey found that 54% of U.S. business travelers say bleisure is a perk offered by companies, and 46% said it is a standard benefit.
Moyse recommended that you check your company travel policies as the first step to bleisure travel. “Not every company has a policy or permits this practice,” she said.
In a Wall Street Journal article, SAP Concur President Charlie Sultan recently discussed the duty of care and risk considerations that come with extending business trips. Employers and employees also need to be mindful of their working locations, as many states and countries have specific laws and regulations that can trigger tax burdens for companies and individuals if too many days are spent working in a certain geography. SAP Concur solutions integrate with technology from leading brands like EY and Deloitte to help customers and their employees navigate interstate and international rules before tax implications are triggered.
Moyse said, “Get familiar with guidelines around how to book your tickets, approved suppliers, your per diem, etc. From there, be transparent with your manager about your plans and get clear on what is an approved corporate expense and what is not.”
To avoid headaches when filing travel expenses, business travelers will find that TripIt can be a useful tool to help them keep track of every part of their trip — from flight to hotel and rental car, restaurant reservations to museum tours, excursions and more — which can then serve as a guide to all trip costs and reimbursable expenses.
Moyse highlighted the additional benefits of TripIt as an integrated solution: “If you have TripIt through your employer’s use of SAP Concur solutions, then you could separate your business and personal activities into separate ‘trips,’ so you can share the business part with Concur Travel to start an expense report and keep the personal stuff separate.”