I've always considered myself a disruptive human (as opposed to the more ubiquitous disruptive technology).

I embrace management-by-walking-around and go out of my way to interrupt seemingly non-work related conversations and inject myself right smack into the middle of a conversation. I'm also notorious for trying to infuse comedy into an otherwise nose-to-the-grindstone workplace by sending what I believe to be humorous reply-all emails (sadly, I seem to be among the few who find the e-mails funny). I even try to test my employees' knowledge of trivia by asking them arcane questions from the fields of sports, entertainment, politics, or business. In short, I do my best to improve morale by distracting the troops from their business-as-usual workaday lives and inject humanity and humor into the workplace.

But, I never, ever, distract or disrupt my employees when they're either driving to, or from, work. I personally refuse to accept calls when I'm behind the wheel and believe anything and everything, no matter how urgent, can wait a few more minutes until my employee has pulled safely to the side of the road or arrived home.

I avoid distracting my employees not because I'm a good guy (which I am, btw), but, because, according to the NHTSA, nearly 3,500 people were killed in 2015 due to distracted driving and almost 400,000 people were injured in distracted driving incidents. Holy lowered productivity Batman!

Not surprisingly, texting is one of the most dangerous activities.

Consider this: Sending or reading a text can take your eyes off the road for five seconds. That's the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed (or, if you play for the New York Giants, the equivalent of two football fields).

When it comes to my employees, I encourage them to sign off whenever they are driving to, or from, work and focus instead on reaching their destination safely (after all, I need healthy, productive employees to keep the lights on and the bills paid).

Ah, but getting entrepreneurs to leave their employees alone (and encouraging employees to drop off the grid as they cruise homeward) is easier said than done. According to a recent poll commissioned by Travelers Insurance, with whom my firm has worked, 43 percent of employees who drive will answer or make work-related communications while driving. Not good. Not good at all.

You're part of the problem

As the top dog at your organization, you're causing unbelievable stress (and, potentially endangering your employees' lives). Consider these sobering stats:

• 38% of employees feel the need to always be available.
• 37% don't want to miss something important.
• 17% are afraid of upsetting their boss if they don't answer. That's you, Inc.com reader. You're not part of the solution; you're part of the problem.
• 15% are not able to mentally shut off from work.

As small business owners, we play a critical role in keeping employees safe on the road. The poll revealed that 27% of employees who drive say their boss has called and/or texted even though they knew they were driving. That's simply unacceptable. And, frankly, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

So, what's a maniacal, 24x7 entrepreneur to do? How can you take the pressure off employees and encourage them to wait to answer texts and e-mails? Here are four surefire tips from Chris Hayes, a Travelers Risk Control safety expert:

1. Put it in writing: Create a formal, written policy stating your organization's position on mobile device use and other distractions while driving. A formal policy is the foundation of your distracted driving prevention program. It should apply to everyone in your organization who drives a vehicle on company business, whether it is a delivery truck, a sales vehicle, a supervisor visiting job sites or an office employee using a personal vehicle to run errands.

2. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat: Remind employees of your policies on a regular basis. Ask every employee who drives on company business to acknowledge in writing that he or she has read, understands and will follow your policy. Use emails, newsletters, bulletin board postings, and defensive driving warning signs in vehicles to communicate your policy in various ways throughout the year.

3. Do as I do: Let employees know that while they are on the road, no phone call or email is more important than their safety. To further prove the point you, your top managers, and other key staff should avoid conversations with employees until they are safely parked.

4. Shine the spotlight on early adopters: There's no better way to reinforce companywide behavior than to praise early adopters. So, after you've defined the safe driving practices and expected behaviors of your employees, take time out to salute those who do follow the new rules in a congratulatory e-mail, company newsletter, etc. The others will see John or Jane receiving praise and want the very same spotlight shined on them. It's basic human nature.
I'd pass along a few more safe driving tips, but I need to interrupt a critically important new business rehearsal to share a tidbit of trivia about World War I with the presentation team. In the meantime, stop bothering your employees while they're on the road! That's an order.

Published on: Nov 16, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.