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Agile working in order to accommodate Pokémon GO?

The business community is under no illusion as to the extent of the phenomenon that is Pokémon GO

With well over 15 million players, much has been written about its impact on commerce. Many businesses have considered the possible benefits of paying for lures and those that have adopted such methods have already seen big increases in trade.

But what about chasing Pikachu or an extremely rare Dragonite in the workplace? Appealing as Pokémon GO is to all ages and demographics, what is acceptable use during the working day? Could we dare to focus on the possible benefits of the game rather than immerse ourselves in tightly-worded polices and disciplinary procedures to restrict or prohibit it?

There is certainly nothing new about the dialogue on flexibility– employers have been getting to grips with different ways of working, including the latest ‘agile working’ which focuses on work as an activity itself rather than where and when it is done, for well over a decade now.

Everyone, not just employees with caring responsibilities, has a right to apply for flexible working once they have been employed for 26 weeks. Although not the avalanche which some predicted, more and more of us are finding a way to balance our lives outside work with the demands of our career.

If you think it is ridiculous to talk about agile working in order to accommodate Pokémon GO, there are reported cases of employees quitting their jobs in order to ‘catch the lot’. Even though we would all agree that this at the extreme end of the spectrum, employers are aware that at least some of their staff have been caught up in the compelling nature of the game.

Only weeks after we were all told that sedentary work could be as bad for our health as smoking, there may well be benefits of allowing such activity at work. Could a 30-minute Poke break (perhaps taken in two or three mini breaks) actually help prevent the onset of illnesses which can be exacerbated by sitting for hours on end?

Some healthcare benefits providers are providing pedometers and other devices which measure physical activity to encourage more activity at work, so what is stopping us from seeing Pokémon GO as another way to help us on the journey towards a healthier (and therefore more productive) lifestyle?

Leaving the physical benefits aside for a moment, there are many studies which prove the psychological benefits of employee autonomy, self-determination and the resultant increase in outputs. These cannot be ignored by employers who wish to recruit and more importantly retain the best and brightest.

After all, employers such as Google, Innocent and others have adopted quite remarkable policies which include free food and drink, fully funded travel costs and fertility treatment (just search ‘how we care for Googlers’ and see for yourself) and don’t forget Virgin boss Richard Branson who 2 years ago famously offered unlimited holiday to staff. The success of these organisations, and their status in the ranks of ‘best employers’, is testament to this enlightened approach.

We all know that technology is embedded in the lives of millennials – in their desire to communicate and socialise continuously, to work collaboratively and to seek out new experiences and adventures. Most of all, a job is no longer enough on its own and millennials have to understand and buy into the ‘why’ so corporate values and practices are absolutely key to longer-term engagement. So that’s the ‘let’s be a progressive and flexible employer’ position.

The following are words of caution and some more pragmatic considerations:

  • Check your reasonable use of personal device and other relevant policies such as social media use at work to see if they are fit for purpose; • Give gentle guidance and reminders about responsible use;
  • Make sure that employees who are not enthused by this or any other virtual reality game are given the same opportunity to work flexibly and be rewarded for outputs;
  • Make sure that your space is free from trip hazards!
  • Revise any disciplinary policy to include consequences of abuse.

Let’s face facts, most employees are already ‘connected’ at all times and are so used to dual /triple-screening in any event, working in any other way will just feel oppressive.

What is one more activity on top of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram! This multi-layered or ‘quantum’ activity is so embedded in some workers, that we can never expect to return to operating one dimensionally. For other workers who do not work in this way for whatever reason, we need to ensure that it is understood that outputs are measured and assessed so that they do not wrongly perceive inconsistency of approach.

Technology has changed everything and we need to move with the times. The more progressive employers have even incorporated gaming into their recruitment process, knowing that it is extremely revealing about our personality and suitability for a particular working environment. Not all of us may be ready for such a step but there are definite benefits of considering an accommodating approach.

Could you give it a GO?

Article by Prisca Bradley from Wright Hassall. An highly experienced employment lawyer advising on all employment-related matters.

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