Pokemon Go and other popular game applications

I had a call from a client this morning. He told me he was concerned that despite the Euros ending, Murray picking up the Wimbledon crown again and a record breaking end to the Open this weekend his team still seemed totally distracted and were all glued to their smart phones (which he described they would randomly point towards the offices break out areas).

He wanted to know what he was doing wrong and why they all appeared to be so distracted.

I knew immediately he had a Pokémon situation and told him so. He was alarmed at first but I quickly reassured him it wasn’t as bad as it might sound.

A Pokémon situation I told him was when your employees are hooked on the new virtual reality game Pokémon Go and he certainly wasn’t the only employer experiencing these issues.

The basic idea of Pokémon Go, for those of us who haven’t downloaded the app, is that the player uses a smart phone to hunt for virtual characters in the “real world” around them. To collect the characters the player has to travel to where the characters are and when the app works out the player is close enough to the location of one of the characters the player turns on the camera on their smart phone and the virtual characters appear in “augmented reality”. The aim of the game being to then “catch ‘em all”.

Pokémon Go has been attracting much press attention recently. Most of the reports have been around players injuring themselves because they have been too pre-occupied playing the game to notice that their actual surroundings pose a danger to them.

But what about the scenario my client was concerned about and the impact on his team?

I told him that the addictive nature of the game makes an outright ban on the game in working hours difficult as this could lead his employees trying to play it secretly throughout the day and might not solve the problem.

I also said I wouldn’t propose that he implement a specific Pokémon Go Policy (such being the transient nature of these crazes) but suggested we look at the Company’s Mobile Device Policy again. Their policy states that mobile devices including those featuring a camera facility were not to be used during working hours and I suggested he send a memo to his team to remind them of this.

A number of my client’s employees have company mobile devices and fortunately their policy states whilst this can be used for a reasonable amount of personal calls it also states that the downloading of games onto that device is not permitted. Given the amount of data no doubt required to play this, or any other, virtual reality game I suggested he also remind his team the app should not be downloaded onto that device.

My advice in relation to a fall in productivity was to ensure that he spoke to individuals who he had observed had perhaps not been performing as well as they should and flag that this has been noticed and improvements are expected. If the suspicion is that Pokémon Go is to blame then this should be flagged. Similarly if individuals are taking longer lunch breaks than they are permitted to wander around open spaces looking for virtual characters this should be flagged and could potentially be dealt with as a misconduct issue.

Alternatively I suggested if he wanted to embrace the game he could perhaps consider designating a time for employees to play this once a week, perhaps on Friday lunchtimes and use it as a team building exercise? Ideally this would come with a health warning to the team reminding them that any office activity, even outside the workplace, can be seen as an extension of the workplace so staff were expected to behave appropriately towards one another and third parties at all times.

This post was edited by Emma Butterworth. For more information, email  blogs@gateleyplc.com.

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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.