EU SMEs are the most affected by the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdown: Europe is “closed for business”, and while large companies have systems in place to implement telecommuting and Smart Work, SMEs (especially microenterprises) do not have ICT systems in place nor policies for their staff to work remotely.
The EU Commission provides a worrisome picture: less than 15% of EU SMEs are ready to implement Smart Working arrangements. The most recent study Eurofound/ILO “Working anytime, anywhere” of 2017, reports that only 2.8% of employees in the EU adopt Smart Working. This means that when the pandemic stroke Europe, very few SMEs were ready and had systems in place to adopt telecommuting arrangements.
There is a pressing need to equip SMEs and empower their staff to implement Smart Working. This is confirmed by relevant EU position papers and studies:
- EU Commission, “An SME Strategy for Sustainable and Digital EU”, March 2020: calls for the swift adoption of ICT solutions to enhance the competitiveness and growth of SMEs
- Eurofound/ILO “Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work” 2017: identifies the need of EU SMEs to adopt Smart Working as a means to increase efficiency, improve working conditions and reduce costs.
OBJECTIVES of SWIFT are to:
- Fill the skill gaps identified by the EU and national entities to equip SMEs with skills, competences and solutions to be more flexible, responsive and efficient through Smart Working arrangements
- Provide venues for SMEs and their staff to develop competences, skills and tools to adopt and adapt Smart Working for their resilience, competitiveness and growth
- Enhance the responsiveness and flexibility of EU SMEs to ensure business continuity in times of need and crisis, while increasing their competitiveness and efficiency through effective Smart Working
- Increase the growth and competitiveness of EU SMEs through more relevant and timely training to empower them with the operational tools and equip them with the skills to be more resilient and flexible