Pokémon Go In The Workplace - Fostering Engagement Or Turnover?

If you’ve recently seen your employees roaming the hallways more than usual and occasionally spinning around in a specific place, you might be a bit concerned. Everyone is, when it comes to the Pokémon Go frenzy taking over the world (and it hasn’t even launched globally yet).

Here’s how to manage Pokémon Go in the workplace, to everyone’s satisfaction.

Pokémon Go explained

Let’s start with the basics: Pokémon Go is a free mobile game app for iOS and Android, developed by Niantic, a company co-owned by Nintendo, and it’s the latest installment in the 20-year-long Pokémon franchise, . The longevity of the Pokémon means that Millennials still remember the original game and are probably over the moon about its current evolution.

The game uses augmented reality to enable players to catch fictional creatures called Pokémon. When you first register to play the game, you create your own character, who will go on to catch these magical creatures, train them in Pokémon Gyms, and become a Pokémon Master.

The best part about this game, however, is that it uses a massive database of geotagged landmarks from Google Maps, allowing players to interact with the physical world through the eyes of a Pokémon trainer. Every location in the game is tied to an location in the real world, making the experience immersive and slightly addictive. Players travel to popular meeting places such as theatres, cafes, monuments and parks to collect items or train their Pokémon, bringing augmented reality to mass audiences.

Still with me?

While it might not seem like something everyone would enjoy doing, the app has been downloaded more than 7.5 million times within the first five days, according to data from market intelligence firm Sensor Tower. Similar Web also reports that there are more installs of Pokémon Go on Android than Tinder, and players use the app, on average, 43 minutes a day. That is more than some of the most well-known apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

Major concerns about Pokémon Go

Some of the most widely discussed concerns about the game are related to privacy and safety.

As game downloads picked up speed, security bloggers noticed that it requested permission to not only  use a player’s smartphone camera and location data but also to gain full access to the user’s Google accounts — including email, calendars, photos, stored documents and any other data associated with the login. Understandably, many people were outraged and demanded that this issue be fixed.

Niantic’s answer was that the expansive permission requests were “erroneous” and that Pokémon Go did not use anything from players’ accounts other than basic Google profile information. They’ve also released a statement saying that they were working on a fix to change the permissions to a level that would be “in line with the data that we actually access.” And they did make good on that promise, updating the app in less than 24 hours to limit asked-for info to “Know who you are on Google” and “View your email address.”

Safety-wise, the game’s augmented reality feature acted as an override switch for many useful habits such as checking before you cross the street, not stalking people’s houses or not driving while using a phone. The police have already been involved in numerous incidents where people were popping up or spending a suspicious amount of time in all sorts of public or private places, at all hours of the day and night, looking to catch a rare Pokémon.

“The game could be potentially leading people into areas where they don’t belong, such as construction sites or shuttered storefronts.”

Don Boyes, an associate professor of geography and planning at the University of Toronto via WSJ

“Reports of close calls associated with playing Pokémon Go already are rolling in. (…) The Council urges gamers to consider safety over their scores before a life is lost.”

The US National Safety Council via USA Today

While the game does offer an immersive experience, players need to be aware of their surroundings and behaviors, in order for the game to maintain its many, many positive attributes. To make sure you’re in the clear, take a look at these 8 safety tips for Pokémon Go players.

The health benefits of playing Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go implies physical exercise. As part of the game, you have to get out of the house in search of Pokémon or valuable landmarks that host PokéStops or Pokémon Gyms. On top of that, you can also have a Pokémon egg that will hatch only if you walk a certain distance. (I, for example, walked 5 km yesterday to hatch a Pokémon).

Users are saying the game has brought a much needed workout to their lives: 

All this walking is immensely beneficial to player’s mental health and it can even help treat depression. Think about it: research has shown that people who sit for more than 6 hours a day are 40 percent more likely to die within the next 15 years than people who sit for less than 3 hours a day. Meanwhile, the average American worker sits for about 9 hours a day, by some estimates (about 6 hours longer than we should be sitting).

Furthermore, while we were researching the many benefits of walking meetings, we also found out that walking for just 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of dementia, certain types of cancers, and heart disease.

Bringing people together

Another positive aspect of the game is that it brings people together, in a fun, competitive way. Players can choose a color to play for – red, yellow or blue. Players belonging to the same color can team up and conquer a Pokémon Gym together. The game is also expected to include a trading option sometime soon. 

Playing Pokémon Go at work

As for Pokémon Go in the workplace, the beginning of this relationship is a bit rocky. There are already two widely cited incidents at work that prompt a lot of questions. The first one involves a manager that got fed up with people playing the game at work and put out a note saying:

Boss just laid this on my desk

Image via imgur

The second incident takes us to Singapore, where Australian SEO consultant Sonny Truyen, complained on Facebook about how Pokémon Go is currently unavailable in his workplace’s country, in an expletive-filled rant.

While the game has so many advantages and it’s really fun to experience as an augmented reality experience, players need to realize the position that they’re putting their employer in, if they’re letting productivity slip and engaging in disrespectful behavior.

Advice on how to handle Pokémon Go in the workplace:

  • Like all disruptive changes brought on by the advances in technology, this too shall prove to be a complex thing to handle. It’s important to be prepared to manage it in the best way possible.
  • Try to be transparent and open with employees and engage them in an honest conversation about whether or not they like the game and how they think this will affect their work.
  • Work together to set some ground rules. For example, playing during a lunch break is ok. Getting people to play together after work is even better. Set clear rules and make them visible to everyone.
  • Make this work for you – Create a gamification strategy of your own. You don’t need a gaming and augmented reality company, use one that’s already available.
  • Create competitive incentives using game rewards for project teams. Group them by game colors.
  • Set health and wellbeing rewards for game levels.
  • If the post-it war between agencies was fun and creative, wait until you try a Pokémon Go friendly competition. The game is about connecting with others, so reach out to your partners or competitors and make this an HR and Marketing project.
  • This can be one of the best things to list when looking for top talent: Pokémon Go Players are welcomed.
  • If nothing else works, come up with the Underdog Award, where you offer a perk or an incentive to the player with the least Pokémon.

The goal is to assess the adoption level of the game within your company and come up with realistic, viable solutions, that do not involve aggressive actions or radical interdictions that could prompt your best people to leave.

The best way to turn this into an employee engagement driver is to make Pokémon Go work in your favor. Just get creative – like these guys, for example:

What other ideas do you think would work for your team?

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Image licensed from Depositphotos; Logo via Wikipedia