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Should employers clamp down on Pokemon Go?

The take-up of smartphone game Pokemon Go has been so remarkable – and the experience of playing it so immersive – that employers may need to revisit their policies to prevent a productivity glut, according to experts.

Though it has been available in the UK for just a short while, the app – in which players use GPS to roam inside and outside and ‘catch’ characters – has been wildly popular, with hoardes of players sighted in towns and cities across the country.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing was forced to issue an email to its workforce banning play during working hours after the company discovered the game app had been installed on more than 100 work phones since its release. A member of staff also came close to injury while playing the game at work.

Andrew Rayment, a partner in the employment team at law firm Walker Morris, said that although Pokemon Go was just “another workplace distraction”, it had the potential to affect individuals’ ability to carry out their jobs effectively.

The game is difficult to manage as it is so readily available, Rayment added: “The game is largely played on employees’ personal phones, and, if it’s only being used outside working hours, that isn’t an issue. But if it is used in the workplace or so much out of the workplace that it’s negatively affecting work, employers need to reiterate their exceptional use policy on the use of personal devices in the workplace so all employees know where the company stands, and trust employees to follow it.”

Rayment said employers should adopt a cautious balance between giving their workforce free reign to fill their time as they see fit, and failing to trust them at all. “When agile working comes into the mix, it’s not really fair for employers to not allow employees to play Pokemon Go at their desk for five minutes, but then also expect them to answer emails at 10pm.”

There are potential upsides to the new craze. Pokemon Go players are walking miles at a time as they search out characters, and reporting positive effects on their health. Reports from the US suggest autistic children benefit from the interaction and socialisation encouraged by the game.

However, Tom Currie, a barista and bartender from New Zealand, showed the potential for the game to reach extremes when he became the first person to quit his job in favour of a full-time bid to ‘catch ‘em all’. The BBC reported that Currie had already caught 91 of the 151 Pokemon available in the game.

Some employers are taking a more light-hearted approach to prohibition. An image that went viral on Twitter this week showed an internal memo at an unnamed company, which read: “We are paying you to work, not chase fictional videogame characters with your cell phone all day. Save it for your break time, otherwise you’ll have plenty of time unemployed to catch ‘em all.”

 

Added: 20-07-2016
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