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9th August 2016

A recent Vox poll found that more than 40% of the adults who downloaded the Pokemon app are older than 25 and about 1 in 3 users are women. With this in mind, what can employers do to ensure their employees remain focused at work and are not distracted by this latest craze – when does Pokemon Go become Pokemon No?

Emma O’Leary is a consultant for ELAS, specialising in employment law. She says: “The latest Pokemon Go obsession is a sign of the times and has gripped everyone from school children to grandparents, so employers can’t ignore it. Believe it or not, we have been advising on disciplinary procedures for staff that have been leaving their work stations to hunt one of these characters. In one case, a carer actually left a resident alone because she’d sighted one outside!”

As with any potential distraction during work hours – whether that’s personal phone calls, social media, texting or Pokemon – there is a need for employees to show self-control, but it also requires effective management. As a manager it’s important to establish ground rules for behaviours and set a good example for your team. As an employee, if clients or co-workers are relying on you then you have to make sure that distractions such as Pokemon don’t impact on your ability to perform.

Emma O’Leary continues: “If there are employees in your business who appear to have been bitten by the Pokemon bug, you need to set clear guidelines to complement your social media policy. In this ever evolving world it’s crucial for businesses to have social media policies in place however, even without one, if your employee is abandoning their work to be glued to their phone and, as in the case we have been advising on, actually leaves the building to catch a Pokemon then this is a disciplinary matter. The absence is not authorised, there is no reasonable explanation for it (even for a ‘rare’ Pokemon!) and it’s a neglect of duties. It does warrant a written warning.”

The nature of Pokemon Go means that there are also health and safety concerns for businesses. The news is full of reports of people being run over, falling off cliffs, getting stuck in mines and crashing cars while pursuing Pokemon characters, and players are often deeply absorbed in their mobile phones to the exclusion of all else.

In July Boeing banned Pokemon Go from all company-owned devices and sent an email to staff after one employee came close to hurting themselves while playing, according to website 9to5mac.com.

Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said “We used the Pokemon Go phenomenon as an opportunity to talk with our employees and remind them of Boeing’s strong focus on workplace safety. As we strive for zero injuries, we prohibit employees from walking and using mobile devices at the same time on Boeing property. This has been a safety standard since 2014. Doing so has contributed to improvements in eliminating distractions and reducing the risk for slips, trips and falls.”

O’Leary says businesses should not ignore the health and safety risks that Pokemon Go brings, particularly in certain industries. She says: “If your business has employees who drive during the course of their work you should already have a policy in place banning the use of mobile devices while driving. Employees who are distracted while trying to catch a Pokemon could potentially be a big problem in a warehouse or business with industrial machines. Even if your company is office based there is the danger of employees walking into others or falling down stairs. You should make sure your employees are fully aware of your company’s health and safety policy and ensure that they abide by it at all times whilst at work.”

She continues: “In the case we have advised on, the carer was out for a few minutes and, thankfully, there were no issues other than her neglecting her duties.  However, she did leave a vulnerable adult in care unattended.  Had that resident had a fall or needed urgent attention there could have been further reaching implications, and the carer’s stupidity could have resulted in a very serious situation.

“Of course you might not want to be a total killjoy so remind your employees that they have lunch breaks during which they are free to hunt Pokemon at their leisure!”

Some companies have found themselves Pokemon ‘hotspots’ – the Royal Stoke University Hospital had to ban players from their A&E department after players found it was a key hub for creatures in the game.   Your company property will no doubt be private, so you are perfectly entitled to prohibit anyone from entering your premises in seek of creatures – electronic or otherwise!

For advice with all employment related matters, call us today on 0161 785 2000


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