It’s going to be a big summer for social media. Which means employers might need to keep an eye out.

It’s no secret that social media is more ubiquitous and easier to use than any time before. And between some of the bigger trends and events of this summer, it’d be easy for that connection to interfere with daily responsibilities. With events coming at you fast, now’s the time to reexamine those policies and make sure they’re clear on how employees can toe the line and still have fun.

Today: Pokémon Go

This game intersects between so many trends in gaming and social media: Incorporation of surroundings, real time changes, cell phones, and connection. The game presents an augmented reality where players can use their phones to map and catch Pokémon, along with various other items. It’s the hottest topic on almost everyone’s newsfeeds, and has shot to the top of app downloads. It’s officially present on five percent of all Android phones, and has almost as many daily active users as Twitter.

Or, in the eyes of employers, it’s a major distraction for employees at work. And as Dan Schwartz writes on his Connecticut Employment Law Blog, it is not too early for employers to start drawing a hard line in the sand on this game:

And then there’s apps like “Pokemon Go” — which are nearly unparalleled in their adoption.  We’ve already had our first firing related to Pokemon Go and that’s no doubt the beginning.  Forbes reports that employers are “nonplussed” with it.

But the response to this app is a bit easier.  If it interferes with an employee’s workplace productivity or is a drain on your resources, it’s appropriate to limit it.

If your policy hasn’t been updated in a few years, use the rise of new apps as an excuse to bring it up to speed.  You can’t keep up with everything but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them either.

Given that many employers struggle with morale and getting workers up from their desks at breaks, Pokémon Go could be encouraged strategically, since it’s sincerely helping some users with their mental health. But as Schwartz says, it’s ok to limit that use to breaks and lunches in an updated employee guidelines


Next Week: National conventions

And if you haven’t updated your policy in four years or so, your handbook might not be prepared for the onslaught of the presidential election.

U.S. employers (and internationally interested parties elsewhere) have been in this storm for essentially years at this point, but the end of July will bring two major events that could distract an employee: The Democratic and Republican National Conventions. During July 25-28 and July 18-21, respectfully, parties will formally select their nominees and give speeches, raise money, and generally perform for the American people. And this year, the public will be able to watch it.

Twitter has entered into a deal with CBS News to simulcast both conventions later this month, meaning employees will be able to keep tabs on the political goings-on—literally. Like any other streaming event or breakthrough cell phone game, employers are technically within their rights to rein in when and how employees can follow along with the conventions while on company time. Just make sure that policy is bipartisan—or else, says Karen Wentzel on Employment Law Worldview:

Managers Should Stay Neutral: That said, it is important that an employer apply these standards uniformly. Employers may otherwise be faced with claims for disparate treatment, harassment or retaliation under state and federal anti‑discrimination laws (which protect religious beliefs, race, gender, age, and other protected categories). Given these landmines, it is especially important that managers and supervisors understand that they should not share their political opinions with subordinates, or worse yet, appear to impose their opinions on them.


Next Month: Olympics

But if you thought those six convention days in June were bad, August will bring a whole other ball game—or rather, games—with the Olympics. The opening ceremonies kick things off on August 5 (though some soccer games will take place before then), and after that folks will likely to be able to watch some sort of event throughout the day, thanks to NBC, who will be broadcasting nearly all of Rio’s competition live. Between that and all the recaps, replays, and results that will be proliferating the internet, there’ll be plenty of chances for employers to lay down similar guidelines for on-the-clock streaming as they might with the conventions.

Photo Credit: Captain Roger Fenton 1860 cc
Photo Credit: Captain Roger Fenton 1860 cc

That’s not all they’ll have to do with the Olympics, though. After all, any major sport event carries with it the chance to lay a small sum down for a chance at the pot—otherwise known as “office gambling.”

Though the pools may look different, employers should fall back on old reliables that have shaped office gambling policies in the past, like March Madness or the Super Bowl. It’s important to take stock of what local gambling laws apply—and that it’s technically illegal in most states—and keeping the stakes as low as possible, as Tiffani L. McDonough explains for HR Legalist:

That said, it is almost a sure bet that at least some employees are gambling on sports during company time with company equipment. While participants in small office pools with low stakes are unlikely to be arrested, gambling in the workplace should be approached with caution. If an employer is in a jurisdiction that allows employees to conduct betting pools in the workplace, the employer should consider implementing a company gambling policy that:

  • Describes what type of gambling is allowed in the office. The policy may also require employees to seek approval from human resources prior to engaging in gambling activities at the workplace.
  • Defines parameters for using company property (i.e., computers, emails, etc.) to engage in gambling activities.
  • Tells employees that the activities cannot interfere with productive work time.
  • Outlines a complaint reporting procedure.
  • Explains the discipline that applies to violations of the policy.


If your employee policies are properly in line then it can be as easy as signing a yearbook: have a great summer!