Welcome to Benefits on the Fringe, the monthly column where Jason McDowell covers the most unique benefits today’s employers are using to woo talent, as well as advances and innovations in the employee benefits realm.

Few buzzwords in the HR realm get more play than “work/life balance.” Millennials consistently list it as one of the most important factors in their employment decisions. Even baby boomers – who often more willingly accept traditional hours and benefits packages – have begun to seek a fairer balance between their professional and personal lives in recent years.

Work/life balance manifests in a number of ways, including flexible work schedules, generous vacation packages, and corporate cultures that focus on employee engagement and happiness. In light of this, it’s no surprise that a new trend has begun to surface as well: travel benefits.

Giving employees the opportunity to travel can be an attractive recruiting tool, especially among millennial talent.

“Millennials are curious,” says Craig Fitchelberg, president of business travel specialist AmTrav. “They have been to fewer places than employees that have been around a lot longer. If you go to a place you have never been, you are more likely to want to spend additional days exploring. So, from my perspective, the lack of travel experience correlates with the higher demand for exploration.”

‘Experience, Travel … These Are as Education in Themselves.’ – Euripides

Chances are that you have more than a few millennials in your workforce, and in all likelihood, they still have a long bucket list including more than a few places they’d like to see. If you help your employees check off a few items on their lists, you might find their appreciation reflected back in their job performance.

Millennials typically struggle with tight budgets and massive student loan debt. As a result, they often look for ways to connect their vacations to business travel in order to cover the expenses.

Boston Consulting Group forecasts that by 2020, millennials will account for close to 50 percent of all spending on business flights. A 2016 report from MMGY Global found that millennials take more business trips than other generations, with the average millennial taking 7.7 such trips in a 12-month period. The same MMGY Global report also found 48 percent of millennials wish they could take more business trips, compared to 29 percent of Gen. X-ers and 15 percent of baby boomers.

“While American business travelers are increasingly extending their work trips to enjoy some leisure time, millennial employees in particular seem to be leading the charge,” says Fitchelberg.

EgoFitchelberg cites a Global Business Travel Association study which found 48 percent of millennial business travelers extend their work trips for leisure, compared to 33 percent of Gen. X-ers and 23 percent of baby boomers.

Not only are millennials game to take business trips, but they also tend to be less picky about where they stay on those trips.

“When millennials do extend work travel for leisure, they’re far more comfortable hopping between accommodations than their older coworkers,” Fitchelberg says. “Millennials are also more adventurous when it comes to selecting their accommodations, seeking out shared accommodations like Airbnb for business travel at almost double the rate of the general population of business travelers.”

‘Travel and Change of Place Impart New Vigor to the Mind.’ – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Some companies are going the extra mile and offering additional vacation days to be used specifically in tandem with business travel.

“The traveler can choose when to use those extra days based on the destination,” Fitchelberg explains. “When they do decide to use their free days, they can leverage corporate discounts to extend their hotel [stays], and they benefit from the company already having the airline return trip paid for. This is a great opportunity to add a little extra for those who travel regularly without it breaking the bank.”

For bosses hesitant to let employees mix business travel with vacation, it’s important to recognize the impact of travel on a worker. Running employees on tight business travel schedules can burn them out, but giving them the opportunity to recharge brings them back to the workplace with a positive outlook and new energy, which can ultimately impact the bottom line.

“Millennials are proving to be a new breed of employee, and this characterization extends to their work travel preferences and selections,” says Fitchelberg. “But practices like extending travel trips for leisure aren’t necessarily negative, and employers should embrace the trend for the benefits it brings to the overall productivity and happiness of their workforces.”

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