People working at computer

Basic tech skills gaps restricting productivity in over a third of European SMEs

  • Lack of employee competence with IT identified by employers as one of the biggest tech challenges facing their business
  • This skills gap fuels continued debate on home working productivity, with over a quarter of leaders in SMEs thinking employees are more productive at home, whereas a fifth think they are less
  • Home office physical set-up also reported as having a negative impact on productivity

A lack of basic tech skills such as how to use Microsoft 365 is having a negative impact on productivity in nearly three in ten firms according to European research from Sharp. The insights from over 5,000 SMEs reveal that a quarter of bosses see it as one of the biggest challenges facing SMEs across the region today.

Reinforcing this issue, the data also reveals that a quarter of firms saw employees’ abilities to use software in general as one of the biggest challenges facing their business over the last year. Additionally, when it comes to getting the most out of Microsoft 365, worryingly only a third of those making tech decisions in SMEs believe they are knowledgeable enough to make the right decisions for their business.

As some businesses look to update the version of Microsoft 365 they licence in 2024 to include AI through Copilot, this lack of understanding will not only impact current productivity but also the ability to benefit from any future innovations from this functionality.

With technology issues prominent, the research also shows a continued divide in how employers feel about how productive people are when working from home. Whilst many don’t distinguish any change, over a quarter of business and IT leaders in SMEs think employees are more productive and just over a fifth think they are less.

Colin Blumenthal, Vice President, IT Services at Sharp Europe, comments:

“No matter the size of the business or organisation, there is a significant reliance in many firms on Microsoft 365 for many of the day to day tasks from standard document and spreadsheet work through to planning, managing operations and communication, to sales and marketing. Without the right training around how to get the most from this software, businesses are clearly missing out on being as productive as they could be.

“As AI becomes more embedded into the software SMEs are using through Copilot and other packages, opportunities to improve productivity and therefore competitiveness will increase dramatically and those businesses where skills are lower could find themselves at a major disadvantage. The message is clear, act now to address the skills gap if you want to remain competitive and start with the basic tools that teams use every day – whether at home or in the office environment.”

And it’s not just tech skills that are having an impact when it comes to time spent working away from the office, over a third think that a productivity issue is how an employee’s desk or table is set up when working from home. The research also found that traditional connectivity issues also played a part in productivity when working from home alongside use of apps such as Teams and Zoom.

Notes to editor

The research was conducted by Censuswide between 1st February 2023-13th February 2023 and responded to by 5,770 IT decision makers and people responsible for purchasing IT within SMEs, from 11 countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.  

About Sharp Europe
Sharp Europe enables small to large enterprises and organisations to enhance performance and adapt for their workplaces of the future through a range of business technology products and services.

Headquartered in London, Sharp Europe serves customers in the private and public sectors, Education and Government, a portfolio ranging from printers and advanced flat screen technologies, collaboration platforms, through to IT services.

As part of Sharp Corporation, and with the backing of Foxconn, Sharp Europe is investing and leading the industry in new areas of technology that have the potential to change the world. It developed the world’s first commercially available 8K monitor and in 2019 launched the world’s first certified Windows collaboration display.

To find out more about how Sharp Europe is changing the future of work, please visit