“Pokémon Go,” a smartphone game, has invaded the United States and the rest of the world since its release on July 6, 2016. In just a few weeks, Pokémon Go has been downloaded over 7.5 million times. Pokémon Go is a virtual scavenger hunt, letting players hunt for different characters on their phones.
In other words, rather than sitting on the couch and collecting the characters, players explore the real world with smart phones and find Pokémon at coffee shops, parks, grocery stores – and yes, even their jobs. Since the legion of Pokémon players is unprecedented, employers should review company policies, safety considerations and data vulnerability.Company Policy Considerations A recent Forbes survey indicated that 32% of respondents played Pokémon Go for more than one hour at work per day. Employers seeking to maintain productivity should review their social media policies to ensure they prohibit or limit playing games at work. The easiest policy to implement would be a complete ban on Pokémon Go and all games in the workplace. However, this seemingly unrealistic, companies may perhaps explore more relaxed policies that allow employees to play during breaks or while at lunch. Even though more lenient policies may be difficult to enforce, if playing interferes with workplace productivity, then it’s appropriate to limit it. Safety Considerations While chasing Pokémon, players have their eyes locked on their device screens while wandering around public and private locations. “Pokéhunters” have been seen walking into traffic and jumping off public transportation buses, prompting police in Washington and Oregon to issue warnings that “traffic is NOT virtual – it’s legit.” Player’s distracted explorations could lead to injuries and companies could be held liable for employee injuries, resulting in possible workers’ compensation or tort claims. Companies such as chemical plants and warehouses which may not be in the best condition for pedestrian exploration should make sure the premises are as secure as possible, in addition to those in the construction industry, which present a high safety risk for Pokémon hunters. Companies interested in electronically banning Pokémon Go in the workplace have options to reduce the likelihood of players visiting their worksites or employees playing in the workplace. Employers can request a removal of any “Pokestop” or “Gym” on their premises through the manufacturer’s website. This option allows companies and individuals to completely remove all Pokémon activity from their properties. Data Vulnerability In order to play Pokémon Go, individuals must sign up through a Google account or create a Pokémon “Trainer Club” account. For companies that issue devices to employees or utilize Google Apps for business purposes, permitting Pokémon Go to access the applications or device could result in serious security risks or possible data breaches. The Pokémon Go craze shows no signs of stopping. In fact, this is just the beginning of augmented reality gaming on mobile devices as competitor companies in the marketplace have announced the creation of similar games. As a result, employers should stay one step ahead of the frenzy by addressing potential liabilities and updating company policies, including workplace social media policies. Photo credit: Photographing Travis via Visualhunt / CC BY