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The Pokemon Go Phenomenon: Time Theft in the Workplace?

By: Alex Nikotina

Published On: August 19, 2016

Canada and the world have dived into the augmented reality with Pokemon Go. While many millennials are embracing this throwback to their childhood, others are raising concern about its impact on productivity – especially when it comes to the work environment.

Pokemon go

Pokemon Go in the Workplace

We already heard surprising stories about Pokemon Go, including dangers of playing while driving, or accidental border crossing while indulged in the game. But those stories don’t seem to stop eager players from wanting to explore the new game and trying to ‘catch them all’.

Unfortunately for employers, that means that the workplace can be used for the game as well. Eagerness to engage in the augmented reality game can negatively impact workers’ productivity, and many employees are justifiably concerned.

“The concern from an employer's perspective is primarily related to the aspect of Time Theft,” shares Jabeen Boga, an HR professional, a leader at HRMA for Career Advancements and Ashton’s DHRM instructor. “Time theft refers to the time spent doing personal activities (unrelated to the employer's business operations) that is still coded and compensated as hours worked.”

For employers, such activities are unacceptable. However, Pokemon Go cannot solely be blamed for the loss of productivity, as the issue of time theft is not necessarily new. “It’s obviously a concern if the employees are simply using Internet for personal reasons during hours which have been scheduled as working hours,” shares Jabeen.

“Employers should reasonably expect that employees are not using work time for personal activities.”

Addressing the Loss of Productivity

The first thought that comes to mind is banning the use of Pokemon Go in the office. Although that can solve some problems, doing this may not address the larger issue – the misuse of the internet during office time.

One way for the HR department to address the issue is to ensure that there are appropriate policies and procedures to deal with time theft in the workplace. “The HR department would need to look into any violations and take measures to ensure that they are not repeated,” says Jabeen. “This can include disciplining those who are abusing internet use in the workplace.”

Of course, the first step is to ensure that the employees are familiar with the regulations and policies in the workplace. It can be a good idea to remind employees about the policies, or address the issue of time theft in a meeting.

If the issue has been seen in the workplace repeatedly, more drastic measures can be taken. “The supervisor would have to assess and monitor the internet use,” says Jabeen. “If it is deemed to be inappropriate, then a disciplinary measure would be warranted. It can start with a verbal warning, and go all the way to the possibility of termination. Each situation will be different depending on the frequency and repetition of use.”

“I would recommend documenting the behaviors and occurrences,” notes Jabeen. “It will be helpful in making the final decisions during the review of the issue.”


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