Unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island you’ll have at least heard of the reality game Pokemon Go, all the kids (and adults or maybe even you) are playing on their smartphones. Players walk around the real world catching virtual monsters in places near their phone location and training them to fight each other. The main display for the game is a map based on the player’s surroundings and created using their GPS.
Its success has been phenomenal with Nintendo’s stock prices soaring. It has been credited with encouraging people to exercise more, helping sufferers of depression, anxiety and agoraphobia and bringing players together at common areas to capture monsters and interact with each other. But do the potential benefits of increased physical activity, office camaraderie and productivity as some have claimed justify allowing employees to play Pokemon Go in the workplace?
At the risk of being called a killjoy there are very few workplaces where the use of personal devices is not restricted and for very good reasons. For example, if employees were not restricted to using their smartphones to, say, break times then, in all likelihood, there would be a frighteningly high number of employees using them when they want for anything they want – including hunting for Pokemon. It’s no secret that games such as these can become addictive; can you trust your employees to put away their smartphones when their lunch break has finished if they are presented with an opportunity to catch one of the rarest monsters?
Not only is there the potential to distract employees from their work, it can distract them from the dangers of the real world. Slips and trips in a warehouse or dangerous contact with machinery on a production line are only two examples of accidents that could become an HSE investigation.
Some players take screen shots of monsters and post them on social media. This could cause embarrassment and affect business not to mention disclose confidential information or trade secrets for all to see? There is also the security risk the app presents to your business when it accesses a range of personally sensitive date from the smartphone.
These are but a few of the reasons why it’s not a good idea to allow game play in the workplace and, in fact, certain jobs should demand a total ban because they pose a safety hazard for example, those that involve operating heavy machinery or driving. However, if you are not against a complete ban it’s important to set rules and make sure your employees know and understand these rules. For example, game play is not permitted during specific times of the day or in specific areas of the workplace and posting pictures on social media is not permitted.
Try as we might it’s perhaps impossible to unplug in today’s mobile, digital world but it’s not impossible to play safe.
Donna Reynolds is an experienced Employment Lawyer and HR Adviser helping SMEs throughout Fife, Edinburgh and Scotland