Business Travel: Mixing Business and Leisure

man enjoying sunset at the lakeLet’s admit it: we’re all guilty of mixing business and pleasure. Really, who wouldn’t like to have some personal time before and after a business trip? That’s why business trips can be  scheduled to give you some free time as well. Four-day trade shows and conferences make it easy to extend the trip for another weekday and on into the weekend. In fact, exploring a new or interesting city is one of the things people like the most about business travel!

How does this reflect on business in general?

Well, the benefits from a “leisure-added” trip far outweigh the negatives. The chance for a bit of adventure is a great motivator for your employees. Who could resist a business trip to New York, Las Vegas, or Miami, with the incentive of an extra day or two to explore the city? Extending the duration of the trip may actually make it even cheaper for the company, as many airlines offer reduced rates for a weeklong trip. When employees know that they’ll have that extra time for themselves, they may be better able to concentrate on their jobs and leave the fun stuff for their free days. And if it becomes necessary, your employees can use that extra time to finish up outstanding business or even meet with more clients.

But perhaps you are instead worried about the adverse effects from allowing your employee to take that added leisure time, regardless of it being on the company dime or not. Are you concerned that your employees may be busy thinking about the show they have tickets to, the museum they want to take in, or the restaurant they miraculously snagged a reservation for? This potential for distraction can easily be multiplied if your business travellers bring their loved ones with them. Or maybe your biggest concern is sorting out any business-related costs such as hotel, meals, and transportation from personal expenses at the end of the trip.

It’s quite simple to imagine how difficult it could become to control expense spending during a trip of this nature. Was that dinner a romantic night out or was it a business meal with a potential client? It takes extra time to sort out business and personal expenses, and all of the receipts and credit card transactions that accompany them. That’s why it’s important to have clearly defined spending control and the ability to track and sort out any expenses incurred.

Here are a few suggestions to better regulate this kind of mixed trip:

1. Require employees to record the dates of any expenses so that spending from the ‘extra’ day will not be charged to the company.

2. Define unacceptable expenses such as alcohol, apparel, or admissions to attractions. This can be a part of your corporate spending policy.

3. Encourage your employees to use a corporate credit card for business-related expenses and to pay out-of-pocket for all personal transactions.

4. Require a receipt for each expense item.

It’s up to you whether to encourage or restrict the inclusion of leisure time in business-trip planning. If you do encourage it, just keep in mind the steps that you can take to make it a win-win situation for both your company and your employee. And in the end, doing business will be a pleasure for everyone involved.