Pokémon Go a workplace safety risk

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should already know all about the craze that is “Pokémon Go”.

Pokémon Go has been making all the news headlines lately, but not all for good reasons.

It is a mobile phone game that uses your phone’s GPS and camera in gameplay. Players must navigate the real world through the game’s virtual world in order to capture, battle and train Pokémon creatures.


Pokémon Go is an augmented reality mobile app that allows players to catch digital Pokémon in the real world.

This type of gameplay requires players to physically move around and interact with the real world to achieve goals in the game.

The game has been a huge success since its launch as it revives the much-loved classic Pokémon game in a unique new experience that combines virtual world with the real world.

While it sounds like a lot of fun – which it is! – it has raised a lot of concerns in relation to public and personal safety.


Pokémon Go Safety Risks

While the game itself warns players to “remember to be alert at all times” and “stay aware of your surroundings”, not everyone heeds this warning.

Various local and international news outlets have reported accidents caused by players not paying attention to their actual surroundings, or being a nuisance at popular Pokémon Go locations.

There have been reports of a 300-strong Pokémon-crazed mob attacked with water bombs by disgruntled residents at a Pokéstop, a man falling into a pond, a dead body being discovered, and car crashes caused by Pokemon-hunting drivers.

Law enforcement have also issued various warnings cautioning players against driving, walking, cycling, or trespassing while playing Pokemon.

Recent reports are also surfacing that the game is not only a huge cybersecurity risk, but also a workplace health and safety (WHS) risk.


Pokémon Go a cybersecurity risk

Apart from putting themselves at risk by not using the app wisely, players may also put their families at risk.

The game’s requirement to leave the phone’s GPS and WIFI switched on at all times opens up the doors for cybercriminals to hack into the phone and track the player’s location at all times, giving way to other possible crimes such as theft or burglary of  homes or workplaces.

The game has already put unsuspecting players in danger. In America, players have been robbed at gunpoint after visiting specific game locations, called PokeStops, where players can collect items. This allows criminals to anticipate places where players are likely to gather.

Even more troubling is that criminals can use items called “Lures” at PokeStops to attract more Pokemon—and therefore an influx of players—to a precise location. As noted on Facebook by police, this is how some recent armed robberies they are investigating were likely conducted.

Other than that, the app also collects various data from your phone, giving the makers of the app personal information about you.

While this is the case with any other app, it’s a huge concern when it comes to Pokemon Go in particular because it is so widely used and requires an active WiFi or GPS signal at all times. This allows the app to find out more personal details about who you are.

The concern among cybersecurity experts is that Niantic, the makers of the Pokemon Go app, have been scant about the security of players’ data and how it will be stored and used.


Pokémon Go in the workplace

While there aren’t necessarily any rules against playing a game or using phones while at work, there are some employment-related issues that WHS officers should be wary of and take some precautions.

As evidenced earlier, playing Pokémon Go can be distracting and dangerous. At work, this could result in lower productivity in the workplace, or even injuries.

In a recent Forbes study, 70 per cent of employees polled reported they played the game at work, with one-third admitting to spending at least one hour doing so.

Note that injury in the workplace and while travelling to and from work are covered by worker’s compensation.

There is also the risk of an employee’s phone getting stolen or corrupted by external apps or hackers – a huge threat if the phone also stored important and confidential business data. There have already been some reports of hacking into Pokémon games.

Additionally, there is risk of potential damage to an organisation’s image if Pokémon players misbehave or violate laws in public areas – this can be damaging to the company if the offender is identified as an employee.


Workplace safety regulations extend to visitors to the workplace as well.

WorkSafe have already issued a warning to players after receiving numerous complaints of users accessing construction sites to pursue Pokémon. There have already been previous reports of players trespassing into court, the zoo, hospitals, and even police stations in their bid to catch Pokémon.

Even though some sites have put up warnings and signs against trespassing, reports indicate that Pokémon Go players are ignoring these signs and entering dangerous sites, posing a real hazard to workplace safety.

“Anyone who accesses construction sites without permission is not only risking trespass charges, but also risking their personal safety due to the multiple hazards that can exist on these sites,” WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said.

Pokémon Go workplace policies?

While specific Pokémon policies are not necessary, organisations do need to remember that by law, and to follow good practice, workplace policies should take into account any potential risks to safety.

Workplace policies are in place for a reason and should be reinforced as much as possible, especially if safety is at risk.

Specific policies can be pointed out – such as those more closely related to mobile communication, downloading and using non-work apps during working hours.

Some small steps can be taken to remind employees about workplace safety, for example:

  • Performance reviews and management meetings if job performance falls below requirements
  • Employees using mobile devices that carry sensitive work-related data for work or non-work purposes should be reminded on policies and security precautions
  • Employees should be reminded that outside-work conduct can be construed as employment-related and that the organisation’s image and reputation should be considered
  • Employers should put up adequate fencing and signage on construction sites to warn Pokémon players against entering

If workplace policies like the ones listed above are already in place, then ideally employees (and players) should understand them fully and practice them accordingly.

The most vital step here is to make employees aware of the rules and to reinforce those that apply. 

Team-building with Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is after all a game, and games are fun, and fun should be encouraged within the workplace. It may only be a trend that won’t last very long, but HR should take the chance to use it as a team building activity.

Employees could have a friendly competition on Pokémon-catching, organise an outing together to parks and other fun places to catch Pokémon or even rare Pokémon.

As the game encourages people to move physically, it also promotes exercise, suited for a workplace that requires employees to sit in front of the computer screen all day.

This game may create a bond between employees as a topic of conversation and bring the team closer together. Pokémon Go may be temporary, but a healthy work culture lasts forever.

The idea here is to embrace the game, and use it to its full potential wisely without ruining the fun.


Michael D'Angelo

Michael's passion and background in marketing, research, mental health awareness, and youth brings in a fresh perspective to the team. From his degree in marketing, Michael is aware how easily one may fall prey to advertising and peer pressure- enabling him to write dedicated content about specific topics pertaining to youth, and alcohol and drug usage.