Put down the mouse and step away from the screen

Today’s tedious PR-release-written-as-news comes from the little known Manchester-based Employment Law Advisory Services (ELAS) which has the Telegraph today reporting that office workers who buy their Christmas presents online from their desks cost £7.25 billion in lost work time.

“For many employers, every hour a member of staff spends looking for Christmas presents online is an hour they should have spent working,” says killjoy Peter Mooney of the ELAS. He advised businesses to set guidelines for the amount of time that staff spend online. I assume the subtext of this is also ’employ us to sue workers who surf’.

However, what this cod-research suggests is that the market for improving both a pure-play retail search engine and adding smarter tagging and search-based RSS feeds to a site could a) improve its sales because customers would find things faster and more efficiently and b) create a more productive workforce who don’t need to spend so much of their employers time surfing after-all.

A more logical approach by employers would not be to “set guidelines for the amount of time that staff spend online” but instead recognise that they are going to do it, then give them a list of the best and quickest sites to go to for online shopping, thus saving hours on Google. And let’s not even go into how employees usually end up having smarter ideas about business when they can roam unimpeded.

A snapshot look at Kelkoo and Pricerunner suggests that Web 2.0 principles haven’t penetrated that deeply into the price comparison market on this side of the pond. Ok, both sites feature user-generated revues, but neither allow you to pull an RSS feed out based on a search term which one might be able to plug into a Google/Yahoo/Pageflakes start page.

So who wants to kick off the best and fastest places to find what you need this Christmas, a la Web 2.0?