What to do about Pokémon Go in the workplace

Workforce | 13 Jul, 2016 |
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A wild Pokémon appears in the Az Business magazine offices

It seemed to come out of nowhere. Last week, the mobile app that has been driving everyone wild, Pokémon Go, launched on Android and iOS. Chances are you or someone you know has played the game that gets folks moving about to catch ’em all.

Naturally, an app that draws people to look at their phone, instead of what they’re doing, can be cause for concern, especially in the workplace.

We here at Az Business Magazine decided to speak with an employment attorney at Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A. to see what you can do if your employees are prioritizing Pokémon catching over their jobs.

Gallagher & Kennedy Shareholder Donald Peder Johnsen likened the the mobile app that has users walking around cities, neighborhoods and even their offices capturing Pokémon to most cultural distractions in the workplace.

“We see (cultural distractions) almost every year,” Johnsen said. “For example in the NCAA basketball tournament, and similar events that suck attention away from the desk, and diverts attention elsewhere.”

The app has been huge. Forbes reported that Pokémon Go was set to outpace Twitter’s daily active users. And since the app launched Nintendo’s value increased by $7.5 billion, according to The Verge.

The same philosophies employers may take when trying to get employees to focus on work instead of their March Madness bracket can be used with Pokémon Go, Johnsen said.

As long as a work rule doesn’t discriminate against any particular class of employees then employers can impose restrictions against the app, he said.

“If the boss wanted to have a work rule that says, ‘look, we know what’s going on with this Pokémon Go, and we feel its getting a little out of hand, and there for until further notice you are all instructed: no playing Pokémon Go during time when you are expected to be at work.'” Johnsen said. “A rule as broad as that would be legal in Arizona.”

Employers could also take a less strict approach, such as only letting employees only use the app in the break room, or by enforcing rules already at the work place to curb Pokémon Go usage.

A common rule employers have, Johnsen said, is one that requires employees to work in a “professional and cooperative and courteous manner, and to devote their full energy” to the job, and those rules can be used to address Pokémon Go issues.

An office manager can walk up to folks who might be spending all their time on Pokémon, and say this isn’t professional and they should cut it out while citing that rule, Johnsen said.

“That very indirect rule covers a lot of ground, and so in this direct case we’re using that indirect rule to deal with Pokémon directly.”

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