08.08.2016

Should You Let Employees Play Pokemon GO?

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I’ve seen stories lately—in HR circles—asking “Should you let employees play Pokemon GO?” They’re posing it as if Pokemon GO has posed a wholly new moral/ethical dilemma,

Don't remember putting this on the job description.... Bennilover, Flickr Creative Commons
Don’t remember putting this on the job description….
Bennilover, Flickr Creative Commons

brought on by a new technology that will change the way we will live forever. It’s not. The answer to the question “Should you let employees play Pokemon GO?” is the same as to the question “Should you let employees play Fantasy Football, or watch March Madness or the Olympic Games?” It’s the same as when instant messaging first became a thing, or Facebook. Do you want to pay people to do that at work?

Of course it’s different if you think your employees might walk off a cliff or into traffic chasing Pikachu. Then you have a question that centers more on why you hired that person.

Back in the days when I was going to school and I had a receptionist job, I always took homework or a book to read for the times—sometimes hours—in between calls. There was no reason for me to sit at rapt attention and stare at the phone. And I didn’t have a lot of other work to do. If I’d been wandering around the building looking for anything—including a Snorlax—instead of sitting at my desk, it would have been a problem. But if I was just sitting there waiting for one to show up, I can’t imagine that it would have hurt anything.

What would they be doing otherwise?

Maybe the question is, have you scoped the job out properly? Is the person just there to be a warm body? Is there something else they could do in their down time so that you would get the greatest benefit from their being there? These are issues you should solve no matter what employees might be doing to while away the hours you’re paying them for. It can get complicated: There are rush periods and slow periods. You may not realize that you didn’t need that extra person on this particular Saturday. It’s a really good idea to have work they can do even if nobody comes in.

But if it’s just a factor of you having a bunch of people sitting at their desks so obsessed with catching imaginary animals on their cellphones that they can’t be dragged back to whatever you hired them for, then the answer is no. They’re there to do a job. They’re getting paid. And if they’d rather be playing, there is undoubtedly someone who would happily take their place and let them go home…or to the Pokemon gym. Every organization, no matter what it makes or sells, needs to have a culture of accountability. People need to understand the responsibility they accepted when you gave them a job. And they need to understand that one person who isn’t doing what they’re being paid to do can negatively impact the whole organization. If your employees don’t have the emotional maturity to get that, you have a bigger problem.

It sucks to be the only grownup in the room who has to say “Stop playing and get back to work.” It really sucks to have to enforce it. But not as much as it sucks to pay someone $10 an hour (or $80,000 a year) to catch a Charizard while your customers are being back-burnered and your business is collecting a bad reputation.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

One Response to “Should You Let Employees Play Pokemon GO?”

  1. Caroline, I think you nailed when you mentioned, “culture of accountability” and I totally agree with you! In addition to the great points you raised, I would add what customers or visitors would think about a culture where employees are allowed to play games vs. trying to be of service to those who are making their jobs and paychecks possible.