Why the Pokémon Go sensation is a timely reminder to revisit your business’ mobile phone policy

In the last week, we’ve all learnt to dodge around people who suddenly stop for no reason, so intent on capturing a “Charizard” that all common sense and spatial awareness goes out of the window. We’ve heard the increasingly bizarre tales of motor vehicle crashes, discoveries of dead bodies and increased court fines which have resulted from the craze of Pokémon GO.

We promise, this article isn’t another spiel about the pros and cons of the international gaming sensation. We’re here to outline what Pokémon Go means for you, as an employer.

Setting boundaries

One of the problems with the game is its addiction – in propagating the aim of “gotta catch them all”, the developers have set an unrealistic target that demands players are on their devices 24/7, including during work time. Whether you allow mobile phones to be used during working hours or not is up to you – but either way, we doubt you wish to lose hours of productivity and wages to funding your employee’s Pokémon catching. Your business should have a mobile phone policy in place, perhaps in conjunction with one governing internet and social media use, which sets the boundaries for what is and is not permitted at work.

This mobile phone policy should outline whether employees are allowed to use their phones during working hours, or whether they are required to be left in the employee’s bags or lockers. If phones are permitted, should they only be used strictly for work, or will you tolerate a ‘reasonable amount’ of personal use? If the latter, you should aim to define the boundaries of reasonable. Do you mean that they can periodically check their notifications to identify any emergencies? Or do you permit unrestricted use as long as it does not interfere with their work duties?

How strict you are with mobile phone use is entirely a business decision for you alone, but it will have significant impacts upon your employees’ morale and productivity, so think carefully about what you are trying to achieve and the best way to go about it.

Enforcing rules

But having a policy in place isn’t enough. A policy by itself is a piece of paper worth no more than the cost of the ink. A truly effective policy has two things in addition to the written document itself: training, and enforceability.

This means that you need to make all of your employees aware of the policy’s existence and its content. An employee needs to have knowledge of, and access to, the policy for you to be able to enforce it against them. We also recommend implementing training, which may be as simple as including it in part of a new employee’s induction, or as complex as regular policy training sessions – what you should do depends on the size, nature and industry of your business. It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s worth it: without this training, the policy is as useless as your hundredth “Zubat.”

Secondly, you need to enforce the policy, and be seen to be doing so. This doesn’t mean acting on every minor infringement by way of instant termination of employment – it means responding proportionately, consistently and fairly. Letting an employee “get away with it” will only encourage further breaches, undermining your policy and its intentions. Encourage feedback of the policy and amend it where necessary, and don’t be afraid to rely on it – at the end of the day, it’s there for the good of the business and its employees.

For more information on workplace policies and what this means for you, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for a free initial consultation.