Mobile Gaming in the Office

UB Insider #18: Making Pokémon Go and Mobile Gaming Work in the Office

About this episode:

Your employees are all chatting about catching Pikachus at their desks, or maybe your office is full of people trying to beat each others’ scores at Candy Crush. The good news is you’re not alone—a quarter of employees admitted to engaging in mobile gaming while at work. The better news is those pocket-sized distractions don’t have to cost you or the company in productivity.

In this episode of UB Insider, Utah Business’ Lisa Christensen takes a walk with Justin Rohatinsky, senior vice president of technical staffing services at Robert Half Technology, to talk about how to keep your company on track no matter what hot game craze hits your employees’ phones, and how you can actually use them to promote productivity and camaraderie. Subscribe or download this episode via iTunes and Stitcher.


Lisa Christensen: Hello and welcome to UB Insider. I’m Lisa Christensen, online editor with Utah Business magazine. I’m hitting the streets today with Justin Rohatinsky, senior vice president of technical staffing services with Robert Half Technology.

We’re walking around downtown Salt Lake today because today’s topic is one that’s getting people out in the streets for good or for bad, Pokémon Go. There was a recent survey on CareerBuilder that said that 24% of workers admit to playing games on their phone at work. And something as highly addictive like Pokémon Go is undoubtedly one of those games.

Justin Rohatinsky: Yeah. I think that number will go up for a short time. I think that number was before Pokémon Go because the article came out a little earlier. So it’s got nowhere to go but up. A lot of people playing.

Lisa Christensen: Yeah. A lot of people playing and a lot of people have been playing games at work just here and there ever since Solitaire was introduced on computers.

Justin Rohatinsky: I’m guilty. Right?

Lisa Christensen: Oh yeah. For sure. So what does that mean for workers and the workplace?

Justin Rohatinsky: You know, it can mean a lot of things. And I think every situation is different. Individual, one-on-one. But I think it’s not as big of a deal as it may sound. The world we live in now. I was thinking about this just the other night. We all multitask like crazy now. Before, I was thinking 15, 20 years ago when I first started in business, it was like cell phones were the cool new thing. We could actually talk in our car. It was like, whoa! And now it’s like, if you’re not hooked into a PDA and a tablet and remoted into work, doing 15 different things at the same time, you’re not normal.

I think people have just developed the ability to multitask. Moderation is always important and that type of stuff, but I think, and really not just the gen-xers and the gen-z’s and the millennials that they think play this stuff, it’s kind of attractive to everybody. Or everybody is attracted to it. I downloaded it just to see what the heck it was all about. I’m not playing it at work, but at the same time, there’s a lot of curiosity around it. So people are going to go check it out. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to be half as productive at work. There’s always that danger, but you know, I think a lot of people can multitask and get stuff done and sometimes it’s just that two minute mental break that they need to actually be more productive.

Lisa Christensen; Yeah. So can taking a break to play games, and before it was Pokémon Go, and before that it was Candy Crush, and before that it was Angry Birds…

Justin Rohatinsky: I think I’ve got the resident Candy Crush, like, national expert on my team. Her name is Melissa and she’s like waiting for new levels to come out because she just keeps beating them. Yeah. To answer your question, I think it can. It used to be we’d work four hours, take an hour for lunch, work four more hours and be done. That’s just not a typical day anymore.

I think a lot of people do an hour sprint and they need five minutes. A game like that, that you can get done in a short amount of time, or just a quick distraction can actually be good. Kind of like Einstein. You know, he slept, what was it, he slept like 15 hour naps every three hours and never really slept at night. Because that’s the way his brain worked. And I think that’s the way a lot of people function best. It definitely hasn’t hurt productivity from what I’ve seen.

Lisa Christensen: So you mention that moderation, of course, is key in all things. How can employers promote moderation amongst their employees?

Justin Rohatinsky: We talk a lot about this. I think one of the keys to any of this social media or digital stuff is to set clear expectations, have a company policy about it. Make sure everybody knows what that is. Lead by example on it. If I’m on my phone at work playing Candy Crush, my team’s going to see that and they’re going to go, I can play Candy Crush. So, you know, be clear with your expectations. Lead by example, and I think just don’t get too hung up on it.

Like I said, if you start to see it hurt productivity, or work’s not getting done, it should be a concern. But, you know, as far as I’m concerned, we live in a world now where people get paid to get their job done, not necessarily punch in and punch out at 8 and 5. So as long as work’s getting done and nobody’s worse off for it, I don’t see a problem with it.

Lisa Christensen: What about for those places that are still more punch in punch out, like retail or, you know, an administrative assistant or something?

Justin Rohatinsky: So like I said, definitely a case by case scenario. I’m thinking more of the white collar professional jobs that I’m speaking of. But if you’re getting paid hourly, you’re getting paid to do a job, you’re getting paid to stay busy, that’s probably one of those situations where you shouldn’t have your phone out on Instagram. Because it’s basically stealing time. So again, different case, a different scenario for every case. And that’s one of those where I’d recommend not playing. That’s one of those types of jobs where there’s a lot of turnover and you can get fired very quickly for something like that. So don’t put your job in jeopardy over the game.

One other potential risk that we haven’t really talked about is the security piece. Any time that you’re dealing with a game like that, that part of the game inherently is data collection. Whether it’s just location or whatever, and you combine that with a corporate network, there’s always the potential for a security risk. And I’m not saying that there is in this case with the Pokémon Go, but whenever you get those kind of circumstances swirling around together, it’s important to be aware of the potential threats. And that’s a situation where you’re going to want to make sure that your support team, your help desk or whatever, is aware that hey, this game is out there. This is what it does. It’s kind of a virtual scavenger hunt for lack of a better word. People are going to play it. So just be aware. They can watch the network and just sort of proactively monitor things.

Other than the loss of productivity, and the health risks and people doing dumb stuff with it, there’s that little slight risk of security breaches. Not a huge… I’m not saying that that’s something to be specifically aware of with this game. But just any of those social media or networking or games. There’s always that potential risk.

Lisa Christensen: So what would you suggest besides just keeping an eye on it? Is there anything you would suggest to mitigate that risk?

Justin Rohatinsky: Well, again, back to the policies piece, they could put a rule in their policy that says if you’re on the company network, if you’re on our wifi, don’t play the game. You know, go out at lunch, hit your 4G. Play it all you want. Be back when you’re done. Don’t play it on our network. That could be an example of one policy they could put in place. But again, policies and then monitoring. Just making sure if somebody does play it on the network that they’re aware of the fact that that may be going on and they’re just watching for threats. Because there may or may not be.

Make sure that people are aware of the policies, and again, lead by example. That’s one of the biggest things because people tend to do what they see others doing. And so, if you want a certain, certain respect at certain times at work you’ve got to model that behavior. And you’ll be fine. And do allow some time. Know that it’s not the end of the world. It might be a bigger deal at a law office or, you know, an accounting firm than it is at a software company. But to each their own. And again that’s where that whole individual policy thing comes into play. It’s not going to ruin the world. This is just one more step in a pattern we’ve been seeing for a decade plus already.

Lisa Christensen: So you mentioned that someone in your office is a world Candy Crush champion. And a lot of people do get pretty into these games. And a lot of people do talk about it. I remember I worked in one office where everyone was obsessed with Farmville. This was even after Farmville was such a big thing. But everyone talked about it and they’re like, oh hey, I have carrots coming up or whatever. How can managers use this as a team building activity, you know? And kind of promote company culture and productivity?

Justin Rohatinsky: Yeah. So a lot of these games are problem solving, puzzle type games. So there’s built in challenges that you can say hey, whoever, take an hour, whoever gets to the highest level of such and such, you know, whatever. You can build some team building around it that way. But really more what I’ve seen is more of the spontaneous conversations that break out in the office.

People that might not have a lot of similarities but they’re playing the same game and so there’s a little trash talk and stuff built in that way. It definitely hasn’t done one thing to hurt relationships. It’s definitely fostered some where I didn’t think there might have been one otherwise. So it’s been a good thing in that instance for us.

Lisa Christensen: So it’s kind of new water cooler talk.

Justin Rohatinsky: That’s a good way to put it. Again, instead of talking about sports or politics, which everybody wants to talk about this year specifically. Those tend to get a little more heated and can be a little bit more dangerous in the workplace to have those conversations. These are harmless. For the most part these are games. It’s an easy way for people to connect with other people with similar interests and not be as volatile as some of those other topics.

Lisa Christensen: Alright. Well thanks so much Justin. We appreciate you coming out today. Thanks also to Chris Sasich for production help today. Make sure to check us out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Thanks for listening.