A middle-aged woman in business attire is staring at the screen of her smartphone as she walks down 2nd Street in San Francisco's Financial District. She appears to be reading email. She pauses when she reaches an alleyway that runs by a fast-casual taco joint and starts flicking her screen with urgency.

She does this for several minutes.

The woman is not checking her emails. She is playing Pokémon Go, and appears to have found what those intent on catching them all call a "PokéStop."

There are few spaces that seem safe from the reach of the viral mobile game from Nintendo, which has seen its market cap increase by $9 billion since last week, when the game's popularity spiked. One Massachusetts man recently discovered his home had been set as a location where players could train their Pokémon. People were reportedly stopping in their cars in front of his driveway to make use of his location.  

The game has also, predictably, invaded the office.

"My place of work is located on a pokestop [sic]...so I have been checking in to the app between emails and projects. This is apparently my life now," an employee at a Washington D.C. nonprofit old Inc. in a direct message on Twitter. She requested anonymity because she didn't want her managers knowing she is playing a game at work. 

While she doesn't know whether her co-workers are playing, she says, "from an in-game perspective, it seems like a lot of people have been playing throughout the work day in my area."

Max Renke, who manages a team of test technicians at the Interoperability Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, said that while his workplace isn't a Poké Stop, the game is creating an at least minor distraction at work, but it's also bringing people together.

"There aren't any pokestops at my work, but I'm sure if there were I'd be rather tempted to play during the day. I have jumped up from my desk when a co-worker said there was a Dratini outside," the UNH masters student studying computer science writes in a direct message on Twitter. (Yes, he caught the Dratini, whatever that is.)

He says the game isn't exceedingly distracting at work, though he later amends that to note a co-worker of his disappeared for 10 minutes to catch a Nidoran, whatever that is. "Maybe this is getting out of hand," he types.

In a note that has gone viral--though clearly not as viral as the game itself--a manager reportedly warned employees that they will face consequences if caught playing Pokémon Go at the office.

"We are paying you to work, not chase fictional video game characters  with your cell phone all day," reads the note. "Save it for your break time or lunch. Otherwise you'll have plenty of time unemployed to 'catch them all.'"

Causing distraction at work is just one criticism of Pokémon Go, others being that the game can facilitate some unsafe and disturbing situations. A girl was led to the location of a dead body while playing the game, for example. A group of players used the game to lure unsuspecting strangers to their locations, where they robbed them.

But Pokémon Go has also been praised, generally, for bringing people together. And Renke says this is one of the more pleasant effects of the game's popularity where he works.

"Right now, it's not really a problem in my office other than the fact that it has dominated the discussion this Monday morning. My team and I all went to lunch and hit a few pokestops on the way. Luckily, it's not too distracting while at the office, and offers a unique opportunity to all go out and do the same thing for lunch," he says.

Published on: Jul 11, 2016