‘Pokémon Go' Is Latest Employee Weapon of Mass Distraction

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

July 15 — Count yourself lucky if you haven't yet seen a colleague at work wandering around staring at a smartphone, mesmerized by the phantasmal appearance of a cartoon character against a real-world background through the magic of “augmented reality” and the good offices of app developer Niantic.

“Pokémon Go” sends players out to real locations to catch fictional Pokémon characters with their smartphones. What are employers to do about this latest hit on employee productivity?

“Anecdotally, we’ve heard of people becoming so engrossed in the game that Pokémon chasing may spill into their work hours. And certainly as soon as work lets out, people are immediately turning on the app and heading out to capture Pokémon,” Daryl Pigat, division director of Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing company OfficeTeam, told Bloomberg BNA in a July 14 e-mail.

“Companies should clearly communicate policies so professionals know what’s acceptable when it comes to non-work activities like Pokémon Go,” he said.

But a punitive approach may not work. “Instead of spending time trying to determine how to eliminate distractions such as Pokémon Go, consider setting employees’ goals around results,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at Chicago-based jobs website CareerBuilder, told Bloomberg BNA in a July 14 e-mail.

“For example, if workers are expected to complete a certain number of tasks a day, and they do so, then it may not matter how they allocate their time,” she said.

Indeed, employers could use the game to boost spirits around the office, Pigat said. “For example, offering an informal office competition or group outing to chase Pokémon can actually help increase worker morale, bring out team spirit and give staff much-needed breaks,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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