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Managing Pokemon GO "perils at the office" via a lawyer's perspective!

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Companies are reporting a dramatic new trend: employees and others drawn into Pokemon GO (the new augmented reality game) at the workplace. Given the novelty of the phenomenon and its unique combination of virtual and real world elements, bosses and managers run the risk of being unprepared to manage game play as well as resulting legal Pokemon-potholes. According to Philippe WeissChicago-based lawyer and managing director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, a few of the bigger concerns and emerging risk areas are:

1.   Facing and Responding to Intruder-Players on Company Property
 (not to mention Pikachus, Zubats and Pidgeys). Businesses face security, legal and safety risks from public players unfamiliar with your facilities. Distracted players have found themselves locked into warehouses and cemeteries after hours or trampling near sensitive R&D areas. The possibility of a painful death by Pokemon play – and by related lawsuits – is not simply hypothetical: already one agricultural business learned that an intrepid player had nearly fallen down one of the company's unused grain elevators while attempting to capture a screeching Golbat.

Risks due to employee play are equally real: one actuarial client reported that a staff member leaned so far out a window (in an attempt to capture a rarely appearing Pokemon in a park below) that he had to be hauled back in by a maintenance manager who thought he may have been intending to jump.

Weiss' clients have also reported employees asking for temporary desk-space reassignments closer to windows simply so they could have better connectivity to a Poke Stop or Pokemon GO Gym (both game components/attractions) that were located nearby.

2.   Players' Non-Stop Use of Smart Phones. 
If your Pokemon-addicted employees are using company smartphones, chances are they have already violated (by several orders of magnitude) any applicable "limited personal use" restriction contained in your electronic communications policy. Moreover, if any employees have been recording any of their Pokemon GO play at the office, they may have created potential privacy violations---all on your company-sanctioned equipment.

3.   "Time Flies as Fast as a Pokemon Pidgeotto” when you're playing.  One of Weiss' clients reported, that in one week, morning tardies were up over 10% among certain groups of employees and that the length of employee absences for breaks and lunches are noticeably extending, and all due to Pokemon GO play. Employees may lose their sense of time (as well as their sense of reality, in terms of career preservation) once immersed in such a clearly addictive augmented reality game.

One media company received complaints after a salesperson started a customer call by saying, “Sorry about the delay in getting back to you, I was catching a Caterpie!  You know – Pokeman GO comes first!" 

Given the growing risks, Mr. Weiss has outlined the following valuable strategies to safely manage Pokemon GO perils in the workplace:

Prioritize Performance over Pokemon.

  • Train on Pokemon GO Protocols. 
  • Start watching your employees' timeliness and attendance with greater attention than usual in the coming weeks. Follow-up on even small delays in work/task completion while the Pokemon GO craze is upon us.
  • Note any employees walking around with gazes fixed on their smartphone screens (and exhibiting an accompanying semi-spaced-out demeanor).
  • Train your managers to know when and how to safely tell employees: "Pokemon STOP!” (And train them not to set the wrong example, themselves, by playing Pokemon GO during work time).
  • Give security people and managers simple scripts to use when they encounter any wandering/errant players. The key is to "Respectfully Reroute” players, quickly and safely.

Patrol Possible Player Pathways (especially if you operate any outdoor facilities).

  • Regularly check all doors, gates and access ways to unauthorized areas to confirm that they are effectively secure. Do not leave any hazards exposed. You don't want distracted players falling into a floorboard gap followed by a 30 foot drop to the sub-basement.

Use the Power of Your Policies!

  • Remind everyone at work about your electronic device policy and ask that smart phones be turned off at all meetings. Don't cede your power to the Pokemon.

Consider the Potential Poke-Payoff.

  • On the plus side, if your store or business is near (or is itself) a Poke Stop or Pokemon Gym, you most likely have already seen increased foot traffic. Businesses can also purchase an in-game module called a "lure" to attract Pokemon (and thus, more players/potential customers) for a 1/2 hour period.  However, be ready for the possible resulting Poke-mayhem. If that happens, take steps to ensure that your own employees continue to focus on their work.

According to Weiss, “the phenomenon is here, but the need to play Pokemon GO should never mean that Performance STOPS!”

What's your take on Pokemon Go play in the office? 

Tags:  HR law  HR management  Pokemon GO  workplace safety 

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