Love it or hate it, it’s here
For the record, I’m not into this game or even understand the appeal (and I’m ok with that), but apparently millions of others are really into it. According to a recent Forbes poll, 69% of adults say they play the game at work. I’m not entirely sure you can claim that 69% of people actually work at work on any particular day (ok, that might be an exaggeration). But having that many folks playing during the workday could be a bit of a problem. While playing during a lunch break might be fine, running around catching imaginary creatures when you’re supposed to be working is certainly an issue.
If you don’t know, Pokémon Go is like a virtual scavenger hunt which lets players hunt for 151 different characters on their phones using augmented reality. In other words, rather than sitting on the couch and collecting the characters, (or sitting at their desk working) players have to explore the real world with smart phones and find them at coffee shops, grocery stores – and yes, even their jobs.
While it’s too early to have any data on this game, Challenger, Gray & Christmas reveal data that March Madness, for comparison, results in productivity slowdowns that result in $1.3 billion lost per hour, while Cyber Monday losses are a much smaller $450 million.
Causing disruption at work is one issue with the game, but there have been numerous incidents of some rather serious mishaps that occurred because the player(s) was too absorbed in the game to recognize danger.
- 40 people were playing the game in a cemetery near Scranton, PA, and didn’t realize the gates had closed and they were locked inside. Probably not what they had in mind for the evening.
- In Bangor, Maine, a man who was playing on the street got into an argument with a woman driving a car, and the woman then hit him with her car.
- Illegal immigration probably isn’t part of the game, but several Canadian teens found themselves detained for illegal border crossing.
- Shayla Wiggins found a dead body, close to the Wyoming Highway 789 Bridge. Wiggins told CNN she was trying to get water Pokémon.
- There have been several reports of people being robbed while playing, like these stories of "Pokémon GO" players in Maryland and on Long Island.
Hopefully, you won’t be experiencing this type of issue in your workplace. But you might face some challenges keeping productivity in line and even working to ensure your company security isn’t compromised.
In many senses, controlling this type of workplace distraction is no different than others.
- Make sure your social media policy (you have one, right?) rules apply to games like Pokémon Go. Define social media in your policy broadly. For those employees who are issued company phones, you may even want to have your IT folks limit the ability to download certain types of apps.
- Write and/or review policies dealing with use of personal devices and personal use of the company internet during work time and the need to limit the drain on productive work time.
- Review policies and remind employees of the dangers of distracted driving (or even distracted walking!). Players may be prone to bumping into others, walking into walls, and slipping and falling, which can lead to preventable injuries.
- Apply your policies, and apply them consistently.
- Should you find that your facility or a nearby area has become a pokéstop, you can put up signage to warn off trespassers. You can even request the removal of pokéstops and gyms if it becomes an issue.
Some businesses are embracing this fad as an easy marketing tool. A great example is Arkansas’ Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The museum is finding that Pokémon Go can go a long way to showcase its collection to the general public.
"As general admission to Crystal Bridges is free, it will cost you nothing to visit the Museum and rack up your Pokémon captures, and you can enjoy some terrific American art as you go," the museum says. "We only ask that you be careful and be aware of your surroundings as you do battle so you don’t inadvertently back into an artwork or trip up a fellow museum-goer."
Another, possibly somewhat unexpected, positive of the game, is the benefits it’s having with kids on the Autism Spectrum. Now, that’s a win!