As you all likely know, the latest pop culture craze is Pokémon Go, where individuals use their mobile IMG_3414devices to catch Pokémon creatures. I’ve been watching my crazy teenage son play this everywhere. He was particularly excited about the Dratini that he caught at the restaurant last night, pictured here. Apparently it’s really rare. Whatever…

My son is not the only one obsessed with this game. Given the popularity of the game as well as the extensive time that players are spending on it (some have described it as an “addiction”), wise employers should be prepared to address the impact of employees playing Pokémon Go (and other games in the future) in the workplace and even on company-provided equipment.

There are a number of concerns that employers may face. Employees may be playing when they are supposed to be working (shocking, I know). Employees may take extended breaks or lunch periods in order to continue playing. They may be playing on company-issued equipment, potentially enabling security breaches of company-confidential information because it’s unclear exactly what kind of access to their data players have granted to Nintendo, Google or others! Similarly, they may be using a company e-mail address to sign up gaming accounts, which could also provide access to company systems. In addition, employees may inadvertently provide malware access to company systems through in-app downloads and purchases, as well as downloads and purchases of other apps to assist in playing the game. Also, some players have become so engrossed in the game that they have placed themselves or others in physical danger – some even play while driving!!! Finally, companies may experience third parties coming onto their property in order to play because the location is somehow incorporated into the game (such as “lures” that draw players to a particular location).

What can employers do? Here are some suggestions, although which are appropriate for your workplace may vary:

  • Prohibit the downloading and playing of games and other personal/entertainment apps on company-provided mobile devices. Some companies require the approval of a supervisor or IT for any downloads. Others’ IT departments may even be able to block such downloads.
  • Prohibit the playing of games during working time. You could even prohibit playing on company premises at all – working time or not!
  • Prohibit the use of company e-mail addresses for gaming or other personal entertainment purposes.
  • Prohibit the playing of games while driving on business. Many companies have driving policies that prohibit distracted driving – consider adding the playing of games to the typical prohibitions on texting or emailing while driving.
  • Enforce break/lunch times.
  • Prohibit the use of company premises for in-game purposes.

Of course, if you choose to implement any of these rules, it is critical to ensure that you are enforcing them consistently. Sporadic enforcement could lead to other problems – such as claims of discrimination.

By the way, I am not excited about the Pokéstop under the athletic fields at my son’s school…  Alas – Pokémon woe!