Pokemon GO in the Workplace

You can’t beat them, but should you join them?

Something has taken a hold of our CBDs. The phenomenon manifests though hordes of professionals in suits and pencil skirts walking around with eyes glued to their smart phones. Are they checking emails before work in a collective display of hyperproductivity?

No. They are playing Pokemon GO, and the CBDs of Melbourne and Sydney have become a veritable mecca for catching them all.

In a nutshell, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality game, where players can catch Pokemon by swiping Pokeballs at Pokemon that pop up on their screens. Pokeballs may be acquired at Pokestops, while players can battle Pokemon at Gyms; both of which tend to be situated in public spaces like parks and outside churches.

Boosting Nintendo’s market value by $11 billion overnight after its launch, the viral game has tapped into Gen X and Gen Y’s sense of nostalgia, lassoing Millennials in the process.  While there is nothing wrong with jumping on this global bandwagon (full disclosure: this writer plays Pokemon GO), should a line be drawn in the sand in the workplace?

A Decrease in Productivity

A Forbes poll has shown that 69% of employees are playing Pokemon GO in the workplace. As a result, workplace productivity has taken a hit much to the chagrin of HR professionals.

One exasperated boss has gone so far as to put up signs cautioning employees of the consequences of playing Pokemon GO during paid work hours.


Workplace Health and Safety

Despite the newness of this game, the instances of hazardous behaviour associated with it are plenty. While driving into cop cars and walking into traffic fall outside the purview of Workplace Health and Safety, one Australian logistics company has issued a warning to discourage employees from playing Pokemon GO around heavy machinery.

However, regardless of whether your workplace involves heavy machinery, the simple fact is: a distracted employee is safety risk. Being engrossed in augmented reality should not mean a total disregard of real-world risks.

The game is not all bad news though.

Socialisation and Team Building

Just as the negative effects of Pokemon GO have been peppering the news, the positive effects should not be overlooked. Catching a Pikachu has become a common watercooler conversation starter, with reports of staff bonding with their bosses over the game.

The fact that Pokemon GO players can join teams to battle other teams is ripe with potential as a team-building activity. While this should not occur during work hours, it is completely feasible during a pre-work coffee run or at lunch time.

Such group activities can build camaraderie, which in turn fosters a positive company culture.


Out of Pokeballs to catch Pokemon with? Perhaps a lunch time Pokestop jaunt is in order. With most of us possessing sedentary desk jobs, Pokemon GO has given us a reason to get up and walk.

Already experts are suggesting a link between Pokemon GO and well-being, citing the game as a better way of de-stressing than say, smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol.

This increase in physical activity can indirectly impact a workplace positively too. After all, studies have shown that even light exercise can lead to better moods and workplace productivity.

A Final Note

Before you think of terminating your top talent as punishment for playing the game at work, perhaps consider the fact that the temptation to stay on the app 24/7 could wane over time.

There is no doubt that Pokemon GO has taken major cities by storm, but as with any fad, trendy things go through a life cycle and Pokemon GO should be no exception.

A guide to change management
in Local Government