Pokémon GO: Catching ‘Em All At Work

Chances are, you’ll have heard about Pokémon GO – a mobile game based on the classic Game Boy series where your mission is to catch monsters, train them and make them fight. In its new incarnation, it's a virtual reality game where you catch Pokémon roaming around the streets and go to ‘Pokéstops’ and gyms located in the real world. It has taken the world by storm and is probably the reason why there are groups of teenagers standing in your local park, staring at their phones.

Naturally, a phenomenon as pervasive as this will cross over into the workplace, raising a unique set of issues for employers (though not all of them are negative).

The cons

The obvious drawback to the popularity of the game is that you might find that your staff are using their mobile phones a lot more during working hours. Depending on what your policy on using personal phones is, that could be a problem; if it is, you should let your staff know where you draw the line.

It is far from being an isolated issue. Forbes conducted a survey of over 66,000 people this month and 69% of respondents admitted to playing Pokémon GO at work. Around a third said that they spent more than an hour playing it whilst working.

The pros

The game is designed to get players walking, not only to catch Pokémon, but to visit points of interest and hatch eggs. Forbes said 80% of those it polled said they exercised more due to their use of the app – a healthy workforce is more likely to be a happy (and productive) one, so employers may see some benefit. In fact, a tech firm in the Netherlands has made it mandatory for staff to play the game for 30 minutes after lunch each day (with an exception for staff who cannot comply for medical reasons).

The other benefit to Pokémon GO is the social element. Aside from being used as a pseudo-dating site, the app can bring friends and co-workers closer together. Half of the respondents to the Forbes survey said they have bonded with colleagues, bosses or clients through the game and most of those said they played together during lunch breaks. It seems that catching Pokémon is slowly becoming the new way to network.

The opportunities

As is often the case with anything as popular as Pokémon GO, there is money to be made. People are selling their accounts on eBay for thousands of pounds, and companies are reportedly emerging which (in exchange for a fee) play your Pokémon account during the day whilst you are at work. One report even spoke of a man in New Zealand who resigned from his job to become a full-time Pokémon GO player. It is possible that the app could spawn its own industry, creating jobs on a more widespread basis.

It may be that the popularity of the app will fade as the novelty wears off (it only came out in the UK a few weeks ago) but, if not, employers may want to think about ways of making Pokémon GO work for them.

Sarah Owbridge is a paralegal at leading employment law firm BDBF.