A Millennial looking like a true businessman is walking down the Broad Street in New York City, while staring at the screen of his phone. It seems that he’s reading an email. Alright, nothing weird about that - everyone reads emails all the time. But wait… He’s stopping. He just flicked his screen and is standing there. At first I thought he might be taking a photo, but he just stood there for several minutes with his phone pointing at something…


Then it hit me - he wasn’t reading an email! He was paying Pokémon Go, and he just found a PokéStop.


During the summer of 2016 this wasn’t an unusual scene. People from around the world went out on the streets in the hope they’ll “catch them all”. 


What Was the Big Deal?


Pokémon Go, Nintendo’s mobile game app added billions of dollars to their market cap during those weeks. It was installed on more than 5% of active Android devices in the US during the first week of its release - which made it even more popular than Tinder! Number of its daily users when up so high it beat Twitter, and average time spent in-app per user was around 43 minutes. In 2016, people spent less time on Instagram. 


It was strange given that Nintendo didn’t actually do anything “big” since 1983, and Pokémon Go was their first venture in mobile gaming! 


If you didn’t get a chance to play the game, here’s how it works. The game combines geolocation and augmented reality (AR). You’re following actual maps to find a Pokémon. Once you reach the destination you turn on your phone’s camera, and you can see the Pokémon waiting for you through the phone. You can actually see the PokéBall catching the Pokémon, it was pretty amazing at the time. Both adults and kids were super pumped about it. 


It’s not that Nintendo was the first one to incorporate AR into a mobile game. There were others before, but they were so unsuccessful that rarely anyone remembers that there was an AR game before Pokémon Go.

How Did It Affect Employees?

Let’s go back to the end of the ‘90s. Pokémon just came out, and every kid was obsessed with it, you probably were too! The franchise had a lot of interesting characters, merch was all over the place, and of course there was a Pokémon game on the Game Boy Color, as well as the collecting cards.


Those kids who were obsessed with Pokémon back then, were the same ones that were obsessed with Pokémon Go in 2016. And at the time, they were making up almost 50% of the American workers. So, you see how this created a problem.


Pokémon Go quickly became the main topic of office chatter. Not only that it created distractions through chit-chat. People were actually taking breaks to go and try to catch a few Pokémon.  


As it was one of those addictive games, it quickly disappeared from our lives, and now we just talk about it like it was something cool and unexpected that happened in 2016. But, that doesn’t mean that anytime soon we could be looking at another addictive game, which will mess with everyone’s mind just like Pokémon Go did back then.

How Can You Avoid These Distractions?

There are several ways to do it actually. One of them is forbidding phones in the workplace. This seems a bit extreme, but it’s understandable in industries where employees work with sensitive customer data, and so on.


Another, less extreme way is to use employee monitoring techniques. And yes, you can start by watching your CCTV from time to time, to see if your employees are using their laptops or their mobile phones at their desk. But the way of monitoring we would definitely recommend is the employees tracking software. With it you can check employee activity and productivity levels. As soon as they stop using their computer for some time, they’ll show up as idle in the dashboard, and you’ll be able to go into the office and check up on them.


Now, this doesn’t mean you should turn into the Big Brother, and jump behind your employees each time their activity status changes. It’s just one of the ways to control the environment in which your employees work, and make sure they’re not wasting their time catching their own versions of Pokémon in 2019.


This article was originally written on July 12th, 2016. It was updated on September 20th, 2019.

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