…gotta catch 'em all!

Last week’s launch of the smartphone game “Pokémon GO” has swept the UK faster than you can say “gotta catch ’em all”. The aim of the game is to explore surrounding areas and catch characters that are hiding in real-life locations. Players use GPS signalling and augmented reality to discover the Pokémon. While many herald this app for its benefits to those who may not do much exercise, employers may need to watch staff productivity to ensure that they are not playing the game while they should be working.
Clearly, if an individual is playing Pokémon GO during work time, they will not be performing their duties. Soon after its release, Boeing discovered staff had downloaded the app on more than 100 work phones. As a result, it has issued a ban on its workforce from playing the game during working hours.
Some employers may allow their staff to continue their search for these illusive characters during lunch breaks. However, having staff wander round the office in their breaks looking for a “Squirtle” or “Rattata” is likely to disturb those who are still working. This could also pose a health and safety risk if workers are staring at, and being guided by, their screens and not looking at where they are walking. It is perfectly acceptable for employers to limit workers’ use of the app to areas outside the building to minimise the disruption it could cause.
If staff are wasting time interacting with this app instead of working, employers are also within their rights to approach this as a misconduct issue and engage the disciplinary policy. So what should employers do to manage this?

  1. Ensure that social media policies are up to date – while these may not specifically refer to use of the Pokémon GO app, it will set out the employer’s expectations.
  2. Ensure the IT and communications policy comprehensively addresses the use of company resources and how employers will deal with misuse.
  3. Where employees are using personal devices at work, consider including or updating the “bring your own device to work” terms in the IT and communications policy to clarify what will amount to acceptable use.
  4. Should there be any loss of productivity or misuse of company resources, follow the employer’s disciplinary policy, using a consistent approach with all staff.
  5. If employers consider it is a risk to work momentum, send a company-wide email reminding staff that they should not be playing the game instead of working and remind them of the relevant company policies.
  6. Avoid a “knee-jerk” reaction as this is likely to be a passing trend that will decline and be replaced by a new craze.
Michelle Lamb

About Michelle Lamb

Michelle is a senior associate in the Employment team. She advises public and private employers on all aspects of contentious and non-contentious employment law, but specializes in TUPE, change programs, employment aspects of corporate transactions and discrimination complaints. Michelle regularly procures advice from other jurisdictions to support Dentons' multinational client base.

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