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Dealing with Pokémon GO at Work – A Guide for Irish Employers

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pokemon_go_logoVirtual reality games like Pokémon GO are increasingly raising concerns for employers about productivity and safety. 

The groundbreaking smartphone app, Pokémon GO, has undoubtedly become a craze across Ireland and beyond. The app allows players to explore the real world with their smartphones in the hunt for virtual Pokémon characters.

A recent Forbes poll shows that 69% of Pokémon GO users play the game at work.  The virtual scavenger hunt raises serious concerns for many employers, such as the threat to productivity, concerns for worker safety, employer liability and data security.

In response, companies like Boeing have recently gone as far as to issue a company-wide policy banning Pokémon GO after discovering that the app had been installed on over 100 work smartphones and after one person was nearly injured while playing the app at work.

For other companies, it is possible that Pokémon GO may offer a new team-building tool.  The social aspect of the app could be embraced as a means to get people up from their desk, walking around, interacting with colleagues and share in something competitive.

Nevertheless, employers should have an up-to-date and reasonable internet policy that is consistently applied and understood by everyone.  Internet policies are particularly vital where a company provides employees with devices such as laptops, tablets or smartphones as activities on such devices bring risks to an employer.

Many employers often try to prohibit all personal use of company devices or the use of personal devices in work.  However in reality, with today’s hyper-connected world and the number of messages being delivered through a variety of channels, it is almost unavoidable to silence the noise coming our way and very difficult to implement a blank ban on all personal use of devices.

The mobile nature of devices has also blurred the lines between our personal and professional lives.  Which means sometimes we will take care of personal items at work, like answering an email from a family member, but likewise, we also answer work emails from our seats at a football game or over the weekend.

Using company devices for reasonable personal use should be accepted by managers as long as employees are exhibiting responsibility when it comes to these non-work activities. This new norm allows us to achieve more of a sense of work-life balance, as long as the scales do not tip too far in either direction.

It is advisable that internet policies should clearly describe what is acceptable and not acceptable in your workplace.  It is normal for these policies to provide for only a minimal personal use of company devices. Policies should also state that inappropriate or excessive use of devices for personal use could lead to disciplinary action.

Like all policies, internet policies should be consistently implemented, to avoid claims of condoning or permitting the very activity you are trying to prohibit.  Where an employer does not have a properly implemented internet policy, it would be difficult to discipline employees for excessive or inappropriate use of Pokémon GO or indeed any other app.

The better prepared and trained you and your team are – the lower the risk of you falling foul of legislation. If you have any questions about this area call Insight HR on 056-770 1 060 or email info@insighthr.ie

By Keith Connolly

 

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