• Tar Tumber
  • 8 August 2016

Pokémon Go…or Pokémon Stop?

Poke ballI must admit, Pokémon was never ‘my thing’ when I first came across the TV series as a youngster.  Perhaps that’s why I just don’t get this Pokémon Go craze that’s sweeping the nation at present - though several work colleagues and delegates on our training courses clearly love it!  

In fact, I was delivering training at an FM client site yesterday and was reliably advised during our lunch break that there was a rare Pokémon character in the room ‘standing next to me’.  Next thing I know, several delegates whipped out their phones (one manager had both his children’s phones with him) and ‘caught’ it – if that’s the right terminology? They all seemed very satisfied with their find, and the rest of our lunch break was spent educating me on how the game works. 

I now understand that the aim is to capture, battle and train these creatures and you do this via smart phone technology, with Pokémon characters showing up in your actual environment via your phone screen, courtesy of your phone’s GPS and camera devices.  I saw first-hand, how the world of gameplay and the player’s real world are cleverly knitted together – pretty neat!

In addition to learning about the actual game, several delegates exchanged stories about where the creatures could be found, and in one instance, one told us how his site had been broken into by some teenagers in search of Pokémon characters. 

It got me thinking…at the risk of sounding like the ‘fun police’, there are clear HR implications here for any company where Pokémon addiction has taken hold!

Impact on work time:

Where the game is being played on personal phones outside of work, there is no issue.  But this was not the case for Boeing, where, within days of the game coming out, the company was forced to issue an email to its staff banning play during working hours after it realised the game had been installed on hundreds of work phones, with employees gaming when they should have been working!  Clearly, where employees cannot separate work time from play time, there is likely to be a dip in productivity!

That said, before all employers starting sending similar ‘all staff’ emails out, they need to consider a balance of trust and free reign – if you expect staff to answer your emails outside their working hours, then is it really fair to ban them from playing Pokémon Go at their desk for five minutes during their lunch break?  Agile working definitely needs to be considered here. 

Health & Safety implications:

Even I’ve come across the stories of people bumping into things; walking out into the road; hanging out of windows; driving and playing Pokémon Go at the same time; and in one US case, getting lost in woods and stumbling across a dead body – all in search of Pokémon.  If staff injure themselves at work, or whilst commuting to and from work, in addition to health injuries that could happen, there is also the potential impact on insurance and liability claims, and reputational damage if your employee hurts someone else. 

People are out there wondering around public and private property looking for these creatures – one of the delegates on my training course told me his front garden had been trampled over by people looking for a Pokémon creature that apparently resides there (rent free don’t you know!) Another told me his work site had been broken into by a group of teenagers…so ensuring sites are secure has to be key.  Again, if someone looking for Pokémon creatures is injured on your site, who would be to blame?

There is a ‘lure element’ whereby businesses and others can buy an in-game module to attract Pokémon so that players will be lured to those locations to catch them.  Again, there have been reports of criminals using this feature to lure players to remote locations where they are assaulted and robbed!  What if the player is using their work phone to play the game?  That’s company data in the wrong hands.

Data vulnerability:

There is much concern around the amount of data the app has gathered, and continues to collect as people download it onto their personal and work phones.  Where the latter is being used, staff are potentially giving the app all sorts of permissions and access to company sensitive data – which in turn leads to other apps and websites popping up on the mobile device to give hints and tips on the game.  There is a chance of course, that can lead to malware and viruses being downloaded onto employer IT systems as a result, not to mention other forms of cybercrime.

To infinity and beyond:

I’m not a gamer by any stretch, but it is clear that Pokémon Go is likely to be the first of several games in the future which will link the player’s reality to a game environment – and this mix is clearly proving a hit with the public so what can employers do to safeguard themselves now, and into the future?

Employer Actions:

It’s definitely a good time to review and communicate out some of your policies to all staff.  The key ones would be:

  • IT and mobile phone policies – it is important to clearly detail what is and is not acceptable in relation to use of personal devices during working time; and personal use of work IT systems and work phones. This should also include limits on security settings (i.e. what permissions the employee can give) and the whether personal applications can be downloaded onto work devices
  • Performance review and performance management processes, which are especially relevant where performance and productivity starts to slip, as a result of Pokémon Go, or any other event (Rio calling…)
  • Health & safety policies which highlight the responsibilities of employees in the working environment
  • Business driving policies to ensure they highlight employee responsibilities when out and about for work purposes
  • General codes of conduct and disciplinary policy – to cover conduct outside of work and bringing the organisation into disrepute, in any external instance where employees behave inappropriately whilst catching Pokémon outside of work but identifiable with the business

Back to my group of training delegates, they certainly highlighted the positives of the game – one said he had not been to the gym for a few weeks, as he was out ‘hunting’ with his kids for hours on end!  As for me, I still don’t quite get the attraction…so back to Candy Crush for me.

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