The world-wide obsession with using a smart phone to track down and capture fictional monsters has created real life problems for human resource departments.
The Pokémon Go craze has companies worried about the mobile app zapping worker productivity and even putting their employees and others at physical risk. If HR managers were concerned about workers constantly switching from one social media app to another during work, Pokémon Go may give them more reason to worry.
“As if the endless barrage of apps, texts, social media pings, viral videos and selfie opportunities were not enough distraction for the average worker, ‘Pokémon Go’ has all the trappings of mega distraction that currently trump many other tech distractions: sociability; portability; mystery, fantasy and escapism; highly personal; accessible; humorous…all the attributes that can easily lure people away from getting their work done,” Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert, told the Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Those mega distractions take the form of 151 characters that Pokémon Go players can hunt anywhere, including the office. But an office rampant with Pokémon Go-obsessed workers could provided managers with clues that their employees are stressed out and give managers a chance to set boundaries, Lynn Sarikas, director of the MBA Center at Boston’s D’Amore McKim School of Business at Northeastern University, told SHRM.
“Stress relief can be important during the work day, but it’s also important to be mindful of what is acceptable in your workplace,” Sarikas said. “If [they] want to play a game to relieve stress, they should do it during a lunch hour or a break. If possible, away from desks so others won’t think [they’re] playing on the job.”
Maxwell Renke, a project manager at the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Laboratory, said employers should welcome the game at a time when people are constantly glued to their phone and more oblivious to real-world interactions.
“It gets people talking, working together and sharing in something that is not only exploratory, but competitive,” Renke told SHRM. “I think employers should put guidelines in place to discourage people from constantly getting distracted by the new Pokémon outside the window, but still foster the community that has sprung up so rapidly.”
Renke and others do warn that using the app on the job, particularly in factories and construction sites, should raise potential liability concerns. Jeffrey Adelson, general counsel and managing partner at Santa-Ana, Calif-based Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez, has no love for the game and said “efforts to use Pokémon Go as a team-building exercise should be avoided.”
“This creates a potential danger to participating employees as the employer is now sending them out of the ‘controlled environment’ of the workplace,” he told SHRM. “If the management condones or ignores the rules or applies them unevenly, they are endorsing the behavior and opening the company up to liability for potential injuries.”
Meanwhile, Boeing has had enough of Pokémon Go. The aerospace giant put a stop to the game after finding out that more than 100 work phones had downloaded the app and that one employee almost got hurt playing at work, 9to5Mac reports.
“Due to the popularity of Pokémon Go and users not being able to make the conscious decision to not play Pokémon at work – we had a near miss for a user getting hurt while playing the game,” the story notes, citing a memo from Boeing to its employees. “Due to that, we had to react and disable the Pokémon app from all devices – we had over 100 active installs of that application.”
The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers has gone as far as to call on corporations to ban Pokémon Go from being installed on company devises or any devise with sensitive company information. The group’s CEO, Barbara Rembiesa, calls the game app “a nightmare for companies that want to keep their email and cloud-based information secure.”
“Even with the enormous popularity of this gaming app, there are just too many questions and too many risks involved for responsible corporations to allow the game to be used on corporate-owned or BYOD devices,” she said. “We already have real security concerns and expect them to become much more severe in the coming weeks. The only safe course of action here is to bar Pokémon Go from corporate-owned phones and tablets, as well as employee-owned devices that are used to connect to sensitive corporate information.”
Just as with any other emerging concerns, companies need to be ready and flexible enough to adopt a policy specifically addressing the game, HR Headachesfinds. There are obvious prohibitions, including for employees who drive as part of the job and work in factories and other environments with physical hazards. But the app also allows gamers to use their phone to catch a Pokémon.
“This is a neat feature when you take a picture of a cartoon animal in your front yard,” the story notes. “Things get a little more complicated when an employee takes a picture of a Pokémon it caught in the conference room and posts the picture on Facebook. Many companies restrict photography in the workplace, and coworkers may not appreciate being part of a coworkers Pokémon picture. More importantly, a Pokémon hunter walking around the workplace looking at the camera will be disruptive and make some coworkers uncomfortable, fearing they are being recorded.”