Luck of the draw could land you a two-week vacation at one area company

Company: The Motley Fool.

Location: Alexandria.

Number of employees: 250.

What would you do with an extra two weeks off? Dayana Yochim went to fiddle camp. (Karen Wink/Associated Press)

Every month, the Motley Fool draws the name of one employee, and sends them packing on a two-week paid vacation the company calls The Fool’s Errand.

“Some people are excited and immediately start cheering,” said Lee Burbage, head of the company’s human resources department. “Others are sitting there like ‘Please, please don’t pick me. I have too much to do this month.’ ”

One employee went to New Orleans to help victims of Hurricane Katrina during his weeks off. Another used the free time to write a song.

Dayana Yochim, a senior producer at the financial services firm, went to fiddle camp.

“When my name was called, I immediately ran out of the room and got in my car,” Yochim said. “I was ready.”

She headed straight for Lawrence, Kan., where she spent 11 days taking one-on-one fiddle lessons, participating in jam sessions and learning contra dancing.

“I got my chops back faster than I would have if I had just taken weekly lessons,” said Yochim, who used to play the violin as a child.

All 250 employees, including 10 who work remotely and 12 who work in London, are included in the drawing.

“It’s a fun forced sabbatical,” Burbage said. “But it also has a hidden business purpose: It ensures that we can survive without any given employee. If you’re the only person who has the password to a particular spreadsheet, we’re in trouble. This helps us find those points of failure.”

Max Keeler, vice president of business processes, used his time off to catch up with friends, practice his guitar and learn a new programming language.

“The great thing was that I could take my time,” Keeler said. “I slept in, I took long lunches, I read on the Metro. There was no pressure to do anything.”

Employees cannot be chosen twice for the Fool’s Errand. But if that ever changes, Yochim is ready.

“Next up: carnie camp,” she said. “I want to learn how to breathe fire.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

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