Before she launched her New York City-based ethical clothing line, Citizen’s Mark, in May, Cynthia Salim took several trips abroad to meet with suppliers and visit factories. She instituted a “bring a buddy” policy for each trip and dedicated about 70 percent of the time to work and the rest to leisure. Her companions generally had relevant interests, adding depth to the excursions.
“I’m all about bleisure,” Salim says. “After all, that’s one of the perks of being an entrepreneur, right?”
Ugly word, hot trend: Bleisure is the practice of squeezing personal leisure time into a business trip. It’s a custom rooted in history: Thomas Jefferson purportedly enjoyed living as a part-time flâneur while serving as U.S. ambassador to France. But the new bleisure suggests a more blended lifestyle of work and play that is gaining traction among entrepreneurs.
By straight leisure-time standards, U.S. workers are among the most vacation-poor of advanced global economies. The average U.S. worker took 16 days off in 2013, vs. 20 in 2000; by comparison, French companies are legally required to fund 30 days off annually. In a recent study, Oxford Economics found that the average American failed to take five earned days off in 2014.
At the same time, workers and, especially, entrepreneurs who have more control over their schedules report increasingly tacking more time off onto their business trips. BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, which services 50,000 corporate apartments globally, conducted a “bleisure report” in 2014 and found that 83 percent of respondents enjoy free time while traveling for business, and 54 percent bring family members along. A clear majority, 78 percent, felt that adding time off made the trip more appealing.
Hotels have been jumping on the news, adding incentives to encourage lingering. Some offer weekend-only deals, such as the Fairmont San Jose in Silicon Valley, where the weekend rate, starting at $174, includes breakfast for two, parking and internet access. The New York Palace offers a $100 food-and-beverage credit for anyone extending to a Saturday or Sunday. Others offer escalating discounts, including the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, where guests can get 10 percent off a two-night booking and 15 percent off three nights or more.
For fans of the practice, blended trips offer personal satisfaction and a fiscal advantage. Trevor Ewen, a partner at New York software firm Neosavvy and a real estate investor, typically bunches meetings into one day and reserves a night on the town during which he and his wife (who’s a business partner) don’t talk shop. “Best of all, so many more of the costs of travel can be justified from a perspective of productivity, business expense and even taxes in the best cases,” Ewen says.
That is, as long as you can maintain your focus and productivity when working. Erik Fogg, founder of Something to Consider, a media startup devoted to political dialogue, chooses to reward himself straight away. “By doing the leisure before, I get to indulge and get it out of my system, but also I become stimulated and far more creative—so my work while traveling tends to be of a much higher creative quality, which is key for my business,” he says.
Though family travel is popular, many parents who take their kids along on business trips find themselves torn between two sets of duties. As owner of talent-management firm Talent Think Innovations, Janine N. Truitt has periodically taken her young children on the road. “Dedicating specific time for leisure is difficult when on business, because a party or some unique situation usually crops up, leaving you to choose between business and leisure,” she points out.
While lack of time off correlates with high stress levels, and stress has been shown to decrease workplace productivity, there may be another hidden benefit to easing out of the office and onto the road for bleisure. A recent survey conducted by Virgin Atlantic found that one in four business travelers say they got their best ideas while traveling.