An Ottawa company has banned personal cellphones in the workplace, saying they impact productivity.

SunTech Greenhouses put the ban in place last month. It is a familiar problem for more than half of Canadian businesses.

Inside the four acres at the SunTech Greenhouse in Manotick, bumblebees aren't the only things hiding among the tiny tomato plants.

Amanda Chiasson is a supervisor and talks to us as she picks juicy cherry tomatoes off the plants.

“People would go and hide in the rows (of plants) and pull out their phones and text whoever was texting them,” says Chiasson.

The owner of Suntech Greenhouses had enough and decided to take action.  If employees step inside the doors of the greenhouse, their cellphones cannot.  A sign is posted outside the doors that declares “No cellphones.”

“January 1st, I banned all cellphones from the greenhouses,” says SunTech owner Bob Mitchell, “Productivity; it all comes down to productivity.”

In fact, it is a growing concern for many Canadian businesses: how to get their employees to focus on their work and not on their phones. 

A survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that the top challenge to workplace productivity was excessive use of a personal phone, for talking or texting.  61% complained about that followed next by excessive chatting or gossiping, of which 55% of businesses said challenged their productivity.

Monique Moreau is the Director of National Affairs for the Federation of Independent Business, “That’s more than half of all small business in Canada,” she says. “They told us that it was disruptive to their day-to-day running of their business,that it was a drag on time, on productivity and on customer service in particular.”

The Ottawa Bagel Shop on Wellington Street had a policy on cellphones.

“When my husband and I came in here,” says Liliana Piazza, who helps run the Bagel Shop with her father Vince, “we got lockers and said to the employees that they had to put their phones away.  But to enforce that is a constant thing.”

Piazza says she was spending too much time policing her staff when the solution was really in the hands of the employees. They were already busy slicing deli meat, rolling bagels and serving meals. Employee George Jobateh believes cellphones should always be tucked away when employees are working. 

“Luckily I’m not too much a part of that,” says Jobateh, as he rolls out bagel dough, “My hands are busy right now, so I can't pull out my cellphone and chat away.”

Piazza says it hasn’t been a huge problem at the bagel shop, “That being said, if I see people ignoring customers, I say something or tell them to put their phone down.”

For Bob Mitchell, the ban seems to be working. 

“We got more positive feedback,” says Mitchell, “even from some of the worst offenders. “Good for you, Bob”, they say.”

Except of course, he is still sporting a cellphone in his shirt pocket.

“The computer that runs the whole thing is connected to this cellphone,” he says, “Every time it has an issue, I need to know.  So I have to carry the damn thing,” he says reluctantly.