Why our business trips are starting to look like vacations

It pains me to say this, but 2022 could finally be the time for bleisure, the ugly portmanteau word describing a crossover between business travel and leisure.

I appreciate that it makes me feel like I’m on Big Bleisure’s payroll. Ever since I’ve been writing about work, someone or another in the business travel industry has been trying to persuade me that bleisure is on the rise. After all, the hotel and airline industries are desperate to make up for lost revenue. While it’s nothing new to spend a weekend visiting an overseas conference, this time around, as business travel begins to pick up and Covid restrictions come to an end, there are reason to believe that we are entering the age of bleisure.

Indeed, workers are more flexible and eager to explore. Airbnb mentioned that in 2021, approximately 20% of nights booked were for stays of one month or more. In a letter to shareholders, the company cited the example of Jason, an Airbnb host in Chicago who saw his reservations change as more guests stayed longer, visited family and the city. while working remotely from local Chicago offices or attending a conference.

Airbnb itself announced last month that employees can work anywhere in their home country without any changes to their salary and can relocate to another country for up to 90 days a year.

During this time, a report on travel by Deloitte identified “laptop vans” as “newly detached office workers” with a desire to work while on vacation. They are taking more trips, “adding days and dollars to those trips. [They] have above-average purchasing power [and] greater flexibility on travel dates.

The business travel industry needs new sources of revenue. Several hotel groups, including Hilton, offer WFH (work from hotel) packages, including daily room rentals for workers who want quiet time to focus away from home and the office. Richard Valtr, founder of Mews, a company that helps hotels manage their rooms and services, has seen a surge in the number of hotels offering additional bookable services such as meeting rooms, guest room usage hotel during the day and coworking spaces.

This blurring of work and leisure is also shaped by employers who turn certain aspects of work into vacations. As employees spend time apart, companies are trying to think of creative ways to bring them together. The remote workforce of 3Thinkrs, a small PR agency, is encouraged to work from different locations. Recently the whole company traveled to Amsterdam for four days. There were meetings, dinners and drinks, but they also had free time to explore the city.

Salesforce recently opened a resort, what it calls a Trailblazer Ranch, in Scotts Valley, Calif., for employees to collaborate, participate in training, and immerse themselves in company culture. It’s easy to make fun of. The tech company practically begs him with a statement saying the ranch offers “touchable experiences like guided nature walks, restorative yoga, garden tours, group cooking classes, art journals and meditation”.

But Salesforce may be onto something. It’s disconcerting to go back to the office and go about our normal lives as if we hadn’t just had two very weird years. Group events mark a sense of occasion. And encouraging workers to broaden their horizons after months indoors is good for morale and creativity.

The fusion of work and leisure is happening at an extraordinary rate. Evan Konwiser, Executive Vice President of American Express Global Business Travel, speaking on an upcoming episode of the FT’s To work podcast, says some employers help plan and pay for staff vacations.

The risk is that we merge work and holidays so that we never disconnect. Ruth Jones, the founder of 3Thinkrs, says she had to clarify that employees about to go on hiatus must undertake a week-long transfer and turn off email and Slack.

One of the dangers of all this vagueness is that work not only infects our personal lives, but also the places we visit – cafes, clubs and hotels. Work creep has become ubiquitous during the pandemic, but now we risk office creep. In the rush to create new places for flexible workers to fire up their laptops, the hospitality industry is starting to look like one big wacky workplace. When I visited a new branch of Soho House, the private members club, it didn’t seem that different from any coworking space.

I suspect most people don’t mind hobbies encroaching on their work, but hate having the office encroach on their hobbies. For this reason, hotels and cafes should also set limits.

Recently I visited a hotel that was hosting colleagues and office days. For an office trip, it seemed like fun. But for a vacationer it was oppressive and I felt peer pressure from people who weren’t even my peers. So much so that I opened my laptop and wrote a bit.

If this is the year of bleisure, one should never forget leisure.

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