Each lunch break, from early spring to late fall, engineer Raymond Lefebvre walks 100 yards outside his office, pulls off his shirt, rolls up his pants, slips on some old sneakers and spends an idyllic half-hour tending vegetables in his personal garden plot.
"It really puts your mind at ease," says Lefebvre, 55, of Catonsville, one of 60 employes at Westinghouse Oceanics who has a garden plot on company ground.
"You forget about your work, you talk with your plants and with other people. It's relaxing and good exercise, too. When you get back to the job you feel really good."
While a growing number of corporations are providing exercise facilities for employes' use during breaktime, Westinghouse may be the first to offer "plant breaks."
The garden club started about five years ago, when several employes approached management about converting company land into employe garden plots. With its rural Maryland location in the shadow of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the area seemed ideal.
"We've got about 60 plots on roughly two acres of land," says garden-club president Mike Baker. "A basic plot is 20 by 50 feet, which we rent to employes for $7 per season. Or you can get one a little smaller for less money."
The fees are used for tools and supplies; the company provides some money and donated a tiller.
"It's not quite as calming as a garden at home," admits Baker, 37, an engineer from Severna Park. "But it adds a real nice plus effect to the workday. Some people bring their whole families after work or on the weekend."