Is bleisure one of the worst words ever invented? Probably. But the concept of business-leisure poses some significant questions both for business travellers and for their employers.
Let’s create a scenario. You have sent one of your sales people – we’ll call him Tim – over to Munich to attend a sales training conference, spread over two days. Tim arrives on Thursday morning, and are leaving on the Saturday morning (because your secretary managed to find an incredible deal on flights that made Saturday morning the best return option).
Through Thursday and most of Friday, everything goes as planned – Tim attends the conference, takes some notes, drinks some average coffee. You know the drill.
However, at 4:45 on Friday afternoon, the conference ends, Tim goes back to his hotel and then, as far as you’re aware, that’s where he stays for the rest of the evening. Unfortunately for you, that’s not the case.
Tim has gone out in the evening, lured in by German beer and bratwurst. He’s had one too many bratwurst, and a few too many beers, and in his efforts to get back to the hotel, he’s wandered down an alley that you don’t want to wander down, and he’s been mugged.
Phone – gone. Wallet – gone. Hotel keycard – gone. In short, Tim is now stuck in Munich with no resources and no means of communication.
This is, of course, not a good situation to be in, for Tim or for you. The obvious (and frankly, moot) point is that all of this could have been avoided if Tim had never gone out – he was there for business, after all, not for leisure.
But with more and more business travellers mixing business and leisure on their trips, there are a couple of factors that need some serious consideration.
The Catch 22 of Business Leisure and Travel Safety
Unless you explicitly ban it as a point of company policy, or you deliberately book tight turnarounds for flights, it’s more or less inevitable that someone like Tim is going to try and unwind after two solid days of training.
That leaves you, as the employer with a duty of care to Tim regardless of his location, in a sticky situation. You have a responsibility to (as much as is possible) ensure his safety, but if he chooses to leave his phone in the hotel, or turns it off before going out, your hands are tied, and you can only react to whatever transpires.
It is more important than ever to be explicitly clear about what you can and cannot do for your people whilst they’re travelling. Make them aware of your operational limits, and unfortunately, you also need to make it clear that if something does go wrong outside of that pre-determined scope, they are responsible for what happens next.
This does not mean you simply abandon someone like Tim in Munich – you absolutely should still provide expatriation where necessary, and embassy support regardless. But the financial implications become a trickier problem to navigate – and that is where being as clear as possible about what you can and cannot cover them for is essential.