Last week's launch of the smartphone game
"Pokémon GO" has swept the UK faster than you can
say "gotta catch 'em all". The aim of the game is to
explore surrounding areas and catch characters that are hiding in
real-life locations. Players use GPS signalling and augmented
reality to discover the Pokémon. While many herald this app
for its benefits to those who may not do much exercise, employers
may need to watch staff productivity to ensure that they are not
playing the game while they should be working.
Clearly, if an individual is playing Pokémon GO during
work time, they will not be performing their duties. Soon after its
release, Boeing discovered staff had downloaded the app on more
than 100 work phones. As a result, it has issued a ban on its
workforce from playing the game during working hours.
Some employers may allow their staff to continue their search
for these illusive characters during lunch breaks. However, having
staff wander round the office in their breaks looking for a
"Squirtle" or "Rattata" is likely to disturb
those who are still working. This could also pose a health and
safety risk if workers are staring at, and being guided by, their
screens and not looking at where they are walking. It is perfectly
acceptable for employers to limit workers' use of the app to
areas outside the building to minimise the disruption it could
If staff are wasting time interacting with this app instead of
working, employers are also within their rights to approach this as
a misconduct issue and engage the disciplinary policy. So what
should employers do to manage this?
Ensure that social media policies are
up to date – while these may not specifically refer to use of
the Pokémon GO app, it will set out the employer's
Ensure the IT and communications
policy comprehensively addresses the use of company resources and
how employers will deal with misuse.
Where employees are using personal
devices at work, consider including or updating the "bring
your own device to work" terms in the IT and communications
policy to clarify what will amount to acceptable use.
Should there be any loss of
productivity or misuse of company resources, follow the
employer's disciplinary policy, using a consistent approach
with all staff.
If employers consider it is a risk to
work momentum, send a company-wide email reminding staff that they
should not be playing the game instead of working and remind them
of the relevant company policies.
Avoid a "knee-jerk"
reaction as this is likely to be a passing trend that will decline
and be replaced by a new craze.
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