Travel

Business trip + pleasure = bleisure!

Take a break: Even when you are at work

Take a break: Even when you are at work  

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All work and no play does not a good employee make. A new class of travellers believe in ‘bleisure’: mixing business with pleasure and weaving in holidaying while on a work trip

The sun has long set on the beaches of Cefalu, Sicily, but Priyanka and Prayag Mehta, married three years ago, are still deep in conversation. It’s a balmy summer night, perfect for a vacation. This vacation was particularly hard-earned: meticulously planned so it could be snuck in between Priyanka’s work trip to Paris and Prayag’s meetings in Amsterdam.

The Mehtas are part of a new class of travellers, extending business trips with a weekend of holidaying. ‘Bleisure,’ a portmanteau of ‘business’ and ‘leisure’, has been getting increasingly popular with young travellers around the world. With the rise of Indians working in multinational companies, and the need to constantly travel to different countries for work, letting some steam off during, after or before work trips seems a natural extension of this lifestyle.

Moreover, professionals across fields such as fashion, hospitality, HR, technology and computing are increasingly of the belief that experiencing new cultures and destinations adds value to their jobs.

 

Top of the list

“My husband and I both run our own startups. We are working 24x7 because there are no office hours for us. That’s why mixing business with leisure makes sense to us. Moreover, we get to save on airfare this way,” explains Priyanka.

The Mehtas picked Italy as their ideal destination, but according to a Booking.com study, Sydney and Melbourne are the top two favourite bleisure destinations for Indian bleisure travellers, followed by Paris. “The unspoilt beaches, the natural beauty, and the thriving food and nightlife are part of Australia’s appeal. Plus, both the cities have great flight connections, making them a global hub for travel,” says Bhola.

For domestic trips, bleisure travellers generally prefer to stay at the hotels booked by their offices, thus increasing their budget to travel. On international trips, however, when the traveller wants to take a detour to other cities or even countries during their free time, Airbnbs seem to be the most favoured type of stay.

“We have found that staying at Airbnbs is the best. That way, we get to immerse ourselves in the culture, interact with neighbours… In fact, going out for grocery shopping is our favourite thing to do,” laughs Priyanka.

Domestic bleisure trips may be just as fruitful: Mridula Iyengar, an investment banker from Mumbai, recounts her trip to Pune, “We went there to visit our branch office, but ensured that we had a team outing on the last day. Around five of us trekked to the Lohagad fort near the city.”

What these trips do is build a sense of community within the employees, which only benefits the company in the long run. “On that trek, I remember one of my colleagues lost her shoe, so we fashioned one out of twigs and dry leaves. That is an anecdote we’ll forever recall,” says Iyengar, adding, “This is the sort of bonding you only get with travel. At a regular Friday party, it’s just drinks and so much noise.”

Business trip + pleasure = bleisure!

The flip side

Given the overall benefits of a satisfied employee, companies are becoming more and more accommodating of travel, allowing employees to go to their destination a weekend early or stay there a weekend late; Iyengar says, “When I went to Zurich, my boss was okay with me going there on a Saturday instead of Monday. I took that time out to explore Bourne and Lugano. The stay, the food, everything is paid for, you just have to manage the travel expenses. Travelling while on a business trip makes sense then.”

On the flip side, not everyone has bosses that are enthusiastic about employees taking a vacation on the sidelines of a business trip. “It is important that employees maintain a work-life balance, especially in my field,” says Raghuraman Venkatachalam, manager at an IT firm. “But in my experience, there are other ways to achieve that balance. You don’t need to vacation while you are on business,” he adds.

In fact, a 2018 report by business travel company Egencia revealed that 20% of business travellers forego adding leisure portions to their trips because of how it may look to their employer. Business travellers in Asia are especially conscious of this. Moreover, the gender of the employee brings in a whole new dimension to this. According to Sian Kaye, senior online marketing manager at Egencia, “only 12% of Indian business travellers surveyed were women.”

Twenty-four-year-old analytics professional Devanshee Tanna was happy to buck this trend. Her business trip to Singapore — her first international trip ever — came out of the blue to her as well as her parents. “I had jitters on the 2 am flight there,” she recalls.

Out to explore

Though she did not stay for extra days, she made sure that she had enough leisure time for personal travel during the week. “My daily allowance for meals was luxurious. And travel was taken care of throughout my trip — to wherever. It was a funny feeling to not have to worry about the dollars,” she laughs.

Noting the difference in work ethics between the two countries, she says, “Unlike us Indians, they were quite particular about having a life outside work. They would be in by nine and out before six. It fit in perfectly with my motto.”

Every evening after work, she would visit tourist spots like Gardens by the Bay and Sentosa. “I remember I was drinking coffee near Marina Bay Sands, and on one side there were children on skateboards, and on the other, a couple in their wedding wear, taking pictures,” she says, adding, “These things don’t always happen to you.”

Not just personal satisfaction, an employee who travels and is exposed to multiple cultures is more likely to have a better work ethic. Bhola explains, “Understanding a new culture and its business impact is important to employees. Whether it is to find work inspiration, bond with colleagues or accelerate their career path, we are seeing that professionals are keen to travel for business and take the opportunity to extend it to a leisure trip.”

For the Mehtas, it wasn’t just about recharging for work: the couple discovered a new perspective on their marriage. “We spent an entire day sitting in a café, drinking coffee and watching people. Every person walking by was like a new chapter for us to discuss. My husband is not a very talkative man, but I don’t know what it was about that trip… We’ve been married for three years but it was on that day that we talked about raising a family,” signs off Priyanka.

The numbers

Why bleisure : Employer perception, destination and proximity to the weekend determine the likelihood of bleisure.

Money matters :Less than 5 % globally have billed back bleisure expenses to their companies.

For your eyes :Sight-seeing is the most popular bleisure activity for business travellers across all regions, followed by outdoor activities and shopping.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 3:04:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/smuggling-vacations-in-my-briefcase/article24329969.ece

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