employee excursions edelman

"Richard Edelman has long had a vision for our employees to live in color," says Laura Smith, U.S. human resources managing director for public relations giant Edelman. "He taught us that in order to be the best for our clients we needed well-rounded, enriched lives, where we do more than go to work and come home."

One manifestation of that vision is Edelman Escape, a program that gives one paid week off and $1,000 to 15 employees so they can pursue a personal project or goal. Winners of an Escape have done everything from volunteer at an orphanage in Haiti, spend time with a sick relative, or meet up with a military spouse who's been deployed abroad.

"It's definitely a retention tool," Smith says, noting that most of the Escape winners are still with the firm a decade later. "Everybody that comes back, regardless of the type of Escape, tells us it shed new light on how they feel about the company."

Take David McKenzie, a senior account executive in New York, who added two weeks of personal time off to go to Shimoni, a village on the south coast of Kenya with high rates of HIV, tuberculosis, and malnutrition. Under the auspices of Global Vision International, McKenzie worked in a clinic, weighing babies, creating lesson plans about health issues, and teaching computer classes.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated May 23 2013 01:52 PM ET
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