As baby boomers extend their careers and Generation Z workers launch theirs, suddenly America is in the midst of a four-generation workforce. And within it, baby boomers, Generation Xers, millennials and Gen Zers each have their own perceptions of what work and personal time should mean – both at the office and when they travel for business. But across all four groups, there’s a clear trend: That elusive goal of “work-life balance” is giving way to a more fluid “work-life blending” that better fits the dynamic schedule of the 24/7 modern worker.
National Car Rental’s third annual State of Business Travel survey shows that while 67 percent of respondents still try to draw a line between their work and personal lives, 65 percent believe it’s an unrealistic goal. Instead, more than half of respondents are now blending work life and personal life, rather than attempting to keep them separate.
What does this work-life blending look like? During an average week, respondents answered emails after working hours on 3.97 days, arrived early or stayed late on 3.72 days and took work calls after working hours on 3.00 days. But, while at work, they also answered personal emails on 2.94 days, took personal calls on 2.85 days and worked on personal projects on 1.63 days. This shift to blending is actually endorsed by senior and executive leaders, 65 percent of whom said they are fine with blending their personal and professional lives.
“Bleisure” Travel is the New Normal
The data shows the trend toward mixing business with a vacation is particularly prevalent among business travelers and is popularly referred to as “bleisure.” The survey found most business travelers (81 percent) engage in some form of bleisure during their travel time, including incorporating leisure activities into business travel (61 percent), extending business travel into leisure trips (41 percent) and booking a vacation around a business trip (33 percent).
Millennials (86 percent) are more likely to have done bleisure travel than Gen Xers (76 percent) and baby boomers (73 percent). In addition, senior/executive leaders are almost twice as likely to extend their business trip into leisure travel (50 percent) or book a vacation around their business trip (40 percent) than non-managers (28 percent and 27 percent, respectively).
“In an increasingly connected and mobile world, we’re seeing employees – and business travelers, in particular – finding new ways to balance their work and personal time,” says Don Moore, senior vice president of global business rental for Enterprise Holdings, which owns and operates National Car Rental, as well as the Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Alamo Rent A Car brands. “As we enter this new decade of the 21st century, the research suggests this shift in thinking. Instead of trying to meet unrealistic expectations, we’re actively seeking ways to blend work and leisure to achieve both life and career satisfaction.”
When traveling for business, workers who engage in bleisure travel report higher overall satisfaction with their quality of life while on the road (91 percent vs. 79 percent) than non-bleisure travelers. They also report such additional benefits as following a healthy diet (41 percent vs. 32 percent), exercising (53 percent vs. 41 percent) and coming back feeling invigorated (54 percent vs. 35 percent). Interestingly, there is evidence that bleisure travel is winning more acceptance. Seventy-nine percent of bleisure travelers are more likely to volunteer for a business trip if they know they can extend their stay, up nine percent from last year’s survey, and fewer people felt the need to downplay their leisure activities to their boss (19 percent vs. 21 percent) or their coworkers (22 percent vs. 24 percent), compared with a year ago.
Of significance: the majority of bleisure travelers (86 percent vs. 69 percent of non-bleisure travelers) believe business travel contributes to their career success and helps them build key relationships they otherwise couldn’t without business travel (81 percent vs. 73 percent).
Blending on the Ground
Ground transportation continues to be a key component of business travel. According to National’s survey, travelers rely on a mix of transportation options, depending on their needs. For example, rental cars are the top choice for getting around the city (78 percent) and going to business meetings (72 percent), while ridesharing is used to get to restaurants and bars (68 percent).Taxis and rideshares are used equally to get to and from the airport (70 percent).
“Ground transportation is not a one-size-fits-all scenario for business travelers,” says Moore. “Employees are selecting, and corporate travel policies are allowing for, multiple modes of transportation in a single trip – and car rental continues to play an important role in that mix.”
Enabled by Technology
Work-life blending and bleisure are both highly enabled by technology, which has a large role in determining which brands travelers seek out. The survey data shows 90 percent choose brands that offer them technology tools that improve the business travel experience. And 90 percent of bleisure travelers perceive connected cars as beneficial for business travel.
Travel Remains Leading Work Perk
• Nine in 10 business travelers (89 percent) are satisfied with their quality of life while traveling for work.
• Nearly four-in-five bleisure travelers (79 percent) admit they’re more likely to volunteer to go on a business trip if they know they can extend their stay for leisure.
• They’re also more than twice as likely as non-bleisure travelers to say they’ve intentionally searched for jobs that required business travel (39 percent vs. 15 percent), and are more willing to give up work perks such as summer hours/flex hours and work from home days in order to be able to travel for business.
The National Car Rental State of Business Travel Survey was conducted November 18-26, 2019, among 995 U.S. frequent business travelers in Lucid’s Federated Sample market research panel of U.S. consumers. At the time of the survey, participants had to have been 25 to 65 years of age, be currently employed or self-employed on a full-time (35+ hours a week) basis and traveled in the past 12 months for business purposes, with a minimum of eight total nights.