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Pokémon Go? Schedule Time for It Outside of Work, HR Pros Say

Forget Facebook, texting, and even Tinder; the latest workforce productivity suck is the infamous Pokémon Go, a wildly popular mobile game that gets users up off their couches—and their office chairs—to chase virtual characters with their smartphones.

While hundreds of articles have focused on how the game is an inventive way to get couch potatoes to track some steps, some HR professionals have been less than happy with the craze’s impact on the workplace.

Work/life balance and creative team building? Fantastic! But let’s take a closer look at how time management, safety, and even tech security can go down the tubes without some solid HR Pokémon protocol in place.


You may already be staring down the barrel of Pokémon’s effect on productivity in your office. Or, maybe you’re still in denial about the far reach of this game. To get a true picture of its draw, let’s take a look at some numbers reported in a recent article on Antimedia:

  • In 2015, 51% of consumer time spent on the internet occurred on mobile devices, with an average of 5.6 hours per day spent on smartphones. This was the first year that mobile use surpassed all other devices.

  • Current studies show that 60% of those who have downloaded Pokémon Go use it daily.

  • In July of 2016, the app was being played for an average of 43 minutes, 23 seconds a day, which is longer than users were spending on Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, or Messenger (and very close to Facebook’s mind-boggling 50 minutes a day).

That more people are using their smartphones to access the internet than ever before is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, mobile access can increase worker output. However, as mobile devices are increasingly opening the door to workplace flexibility, distractions also are coming right in, and without wiping their feet on the mat.

Think about it: If the average user is spending close to an hour each day playing games, the odds are pretty good that he should be working for some of that time (and not on Pokémon Go).

So, who might these users be in your workplace?

Before you make any assumptions, consider this insight Nima Mirpourian, the technology division director of human resources consulting firm Robert Half, gave during a recent interview: “Some managers might think only of Millennials or Gen Z as potential offenders,” Mirpourian said.  “But mobile devices and smartphone apps have really gone mainstream in the past few years, and I think it’s safe to assume that all professionals could be tempted by those distractions.”

In other words, now that the Pokémon effect has hatched, it’s reach could be broader than many HR pros ever dreamed, and possibly impact future hiring trends.


When your team is immersed in personal tasks during work hours, be it actual gaming or mapping out their game plans for later, the effect on productivity is obvious. But consider the other downsides.

In a recent piece in Forbes, John Reed, Senior Executive Director of Robert Half Technology, warned about the potential tech security fallout:

“As a manager, it’s even more important that you are establishing the ground rules for behaviors—and setting a good example for your team,” he says. “I cannot stress enough the importance of establishing security policies that will help protect against any potential security threats to the network and organization…leaders of all departments need to be in touch with these policies and be passing them along to their teams.”

While many organizations’ IT Ops teams have security policies in place limiting the use of personal devices at work and/or restricting access to certain apps and sites, the Pokémon Go craze might be a good opportunity for your company to revisit its policy around gaming. It’s important to draw some clear lines in the sand between work/life balance and the safety of your overall data network.

In addition, there have already been countless reports of Pokémon users injuring themselves or others while immersed in the chase.


Worker productivity aside, this is reason enough to take a hardline stance against the game, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, which recently published a piece advocating against using the game’s popularity as a teambuilding activity:

“Efforts to use ‘Pokémon Go’ as a team-building exercise should be avoided,” Jeffrey M. Adelson, general counsel and managing partner at Santa Ana, Calif.-based Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez, said in the article. “This creates a potential danger to participating employees, as the employer is now sending them out of the ‘controlled environment’ of the workplace. If the management condones or ignores the rules or applies them unevenly, they are endorsing the behavior and opening the company up to liability for potential injuries.”

So, while it may be tempting to be the “cool” HR or recruiting manager who is down with the digital age, put a firm ix-nay on the okémon-Pay to avoid risks to the physical safety and cybersecurity of your employees and workplace.


Managing your employees’ use of personal smartphones and games may seem like a tedious exercise in micromanagement, but the Poke-craze is truly a great opportunity to revisit some of your internal policies while tightening up on productivity across the board.

You might also take some time during this review to build in attractive flex-time options for your employees. Scheduling software is one way to facilitate this level of workforce management, allowing your employees that mix of freedom and focus that today’s hires crave.

Just remember: Fostering creativity and work/life balance doesn’t mean you have to be shy about putting your foot down regarding productivity. Set the bar high for your team, and make clear what your company can’t tolerate.

Then wish them the best in their Pikachu chasing—on their own time.