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Pikachu... is it time you had a Pokemon Policy in Place?

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If you are anything like me, you will neither understand the need for Pokemon Go, nor will you allow yourself be trapped into the latest craze which has individuals glued to their smartphone in a bid to “catch” Pokemon creatures by integrating the real world with the virtual world.

I recall when the Pokemon concept was first created on or around 1995 – a game which was centred on fictional creatures (including Pikachu and her friends) battling each other for sport. As with the Tamagotchi (who recalls having one of those), the game was a global phenomenon. However, as with all crazes, it did eventually fizzle out…until now.

Nintendo released Pokemon Go as the next best thing in July 2016 and it has hit the world by storm with its addictiveness. It has become so popular that some employers are finding it an unwelcome distraction in the workplace. Not only that but it can also be a health and safety hazard for those employees who go hunting around a warehouse trying to find Mewtoo (apparently one of the Pokemon characters). Alternatively, one of the delivery drivers may decide to try and multi-task and “catch them” while driving.

These are both scenarios which could happen and only a handful of examples.

In fact, Pokemon Go has been so popular that Boeing has issued a memo to its workforce banning any playing of Pokemon Go during work hours after an employee was seriously injured whilst playing the game. The Company later found that the game had been installed on more than 100 company devices!

So what measures can employers put in place? Whilst employers can put a policy in place, the following reminders could be issued to employees:-

Driving – playing Pokemon Go or even being on the phone while driving is dangerous. If, as an employer, you have employees who drive on company business, prohibit the use of mobile phones whilst driving.

Playing during work time – it is likely employers will already have a policy in place preventing excessive device usage or internet usage. Pokemon is no different and employers will have the right to discipline those who breach company rules. Alternatively, standards may fall and there will need to be consideration for performance issues.

Health and Safety – the game involves chasing animals while looking at smartphone. This may well be perfectly acceptable in a park but this could cause huge health and safety issues at work, particularly for those who work in a warehouse or are near industrial equipment. Employees should be reminded that they are expected to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Phone Policy – the Pokemon app allows players to see and catch a Pokemon with a phone’s camera, effectively integrating the real and virtual world. It may be perfectly harmless taking a picture of a cartoon animal in a park but what about in a work environment? Many companies prohibit photography in the workplace, not least because of confidentiality issues. Even still, other colleagues may not appreciate being part of a Pokemon collection or even relish the idea of being recorded. Lastly, having an employee walk around the workplace playing the game is unlikely to create a professional image to any clients who have attended the office.

Pokestop – employers may be unlucky enough to be a Pokestop – a hotspot for where a player can replenish their stash of supplies. This could result in off duty employees hunting Pokemon on your premises…unrealistic but entirely possible. Not only do confidentiality issues arise here but also safety issues.

It is always possible that any “addicts” amongst your employees may try to push the boundaries but other employees are likely to follow the rules, providing the message from you regarding what is and is not acceptable in the workplace is concise and clear.

So is Pikachu here to stay? Only time will tell.