Pokémon Go: The Latest Threat to Good Employee Relations

BlogHR Advice Posted: Tuesday 9th August 2016 by

There’s a rule that, if always followed, would probably make understanding HR easier. It comes in two parts; the first is sometimes ignored by employees and the second can be overlooked by employers.

The rule is: What your employees do in the time you’re paying them for is your business and subject to their contractual terms. What they do on their own time is, by and large, not.

There are exceptions. An employment contract may, and probably should, make it a disciplinary offence to publicly insult someone who is a customer or could be a customer. And publicly means on social media as well as in the pub. Also subject to disciplinary action should be anything done in the employee’s own time, but while on company premises, or driving a vehicle, or wearing an item of clothing identifiable as yours.

At Human Results, we’re sometimes asked for advice on disputes that could have been prevented if every company had a social media policy and made sure the policy was known to and understood by the workforce. The points raised above should be part of that policy. One reason social media policies are not more common is that some senior managers are of a generation that does not involve itself in social media as much as the bulk of its workforce.

The pwc survey, ‘Millennials at Work’ says that, before the next four years are up, millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) will form 50% of the global workforce. If you predate that generation, try asking any millennial when they last wrote a personal letter or postcard. Chances are the answer will be that they had to do so as a primary school exercise and they haven’t written one since.

Because millennials don’t write letters. They text, they tweet, they Facebook, they ping, they double tap on Instagram, but they don’t write letters. And your social media policy should make it clear that texting, tweeting and tapping during working hours is fine – just so long as the texts, tweets and taps are connected with work. They also have a time for personal texts, tweets and taps and that time is the time you’re not paying for.

And now we have Pokémon Go. If you haven’t heard of it, you may have been living out at sea, or under a rock for the last month, because Pokémon Go is everywhere – including on almost every mainstream news outlet, and almost always, it seems, mentioned in the negative.

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game played on mobile phones in which players go from place to place under the influence of GPS to capture strange (and fictional) creatures called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were there in real life. But of course, they’re not.

More than 40 million people worldwide are playing it, but since its launch just last month, the game has faced huge backlash as it has actively contributed to accidents (people looking at their screens in search of Pokémon, and not at what’s in front of them, for example), fights, and a general public nuisance.

So, why might this matter to employers? Because:

  1. The game is highly addictive and a lot of people are playing it on their mobile devices when they’re supposed to be working;
  2. As we’ve mentioned, players go to places and, if they go (even while off duty) in a vehicle identifiable as yours and cause a nuisance while there, your company’s reputation will suffer;
  3. Players are actively ditching work in favour of searching for Pokémon.

Simply Googling ‘Pokémon Go productivity’ during the research of this article, there are some very scary stories that are already emerging on the internet relating to matters of employment, such as this story from a Pokémon ‘catcher’ (via Buzzfeed.com), who admits missing work on social media.

Yesterday instead of taking a lunch break I just walked around catching Pokémon for 30 minutes. Then I purposefully missed my train so I could walk around Flagstaff gardens and get more Pokémon. Then I went for a 25-minute walk in the rain as there weren’t any Pokémon around my house and I needed to level up and get some more poké balls from the landmarks.”

So as an employer, Pokémon Go needs to be on your immediate ‘watch list’ and, where possible, included in your social media policy. Although this may be a passing craze, augmented and virtual reality gaming of some form or another is probably here to stay for a while.

Human Results offer expert HR services on retainer, or on a one-off basis to help guide you through the daily challenges of managing your business from a people perspective, including employee engagement, dispute resolution and resolving workplace conflict. We also provide expert leadership development coaching programmes to secure long-term capability within your organisation, and a critical support structure for your leaders.

For more information, call Human Results on 01952 288361 for a no obligation, confidential discussion.

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