Almost two-thirds of European businesses plan to invest more in technology that supports a combination of at-home and in-office working, according to a new report, with more than half planning to prioritize remote support for staff.

Research commissioned by PC maker Dynabook surveyed more than 1,000 senior IT decision makers at medium and large businesses in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands to understand where money was going over the next 12 months.

Of those surveyed, it found that 65% of European businesses had carved out bigger budgets to accommodate more flexible styles of working that involved employees spending more time working remotely.

Cloud platforms, cybersecurity, remote IT support and IT training were among the top investment priorities for European IT leaders over the next 12 months, it found. These were identified as being crucial to supporting changing work patterns and business continuity following the disruption of 2020.

“The last year has seen unprecedented change in the way we work, and it’s clear from our research that European businesses are still racing to ensure their IT infrastructure meets the demands of an increased remote and hybrid workforce,” said Damian Jaume, president at Dynabook Europe.

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IT leaders in Spain reported the biggest increase in tech spending, with 71% of organizations planning a rise in technology investments in the next year, closely followed by 70% of businesses in the Netherlands. Over three-quarters (76%) of financial services organizations reported increased budgets, while 73% of manufacturing businesses said the same. The retail sector was the least likely to up IT budgets, with 54% of businesses reporting increased IT expenditure.

An anticipated increase in “hybrid” working styles that involved staff working from a mixture of locations was identified as a clear driver in IT spend. The report found that more than two-thirds (67%) of employees expected to either work from home or from no fixed location following the pandemic, compared to 53% before COVID-19.

Businesses are increasing their investment in cloud infrastructure to support this: 50% of respondents across all market sectors ranked cloud platforms and remote IT support respectively as their top priorities.

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When asked about ensuring the productivity of their growing remote workforce, over half (51%) of organizations surveyed indicated they will prioritize providing remote assistance for staff. This has has increased from 29% compared to Dynabook’s 2018 report. UK businesses were most likely to prioritize remote IT support, with almost two-thirds (63%) identifying it as a key focus.

Productivity and collaboration software have also become key tools for businesses since the start of the pandemic, and IT leaders plan to continue investing in ways to keep workers connected, with 73% of respondents planning to increase investment in collaboration tools over the coming year. Dynabook’s report also highlighted the difficulties some organizations have faced in maintaining remote workforces: employee productivity and collaboration were identified as the most difficult areas to manage for a third of European IT decision makers.

IT leaders are also conscious of the rapidly evolving threat landscape. According to SonicWall’s 2021 Cyber Threat Report, there were 56.9 million attempted IoT attacks, 5.6 billion malware attacks and 4.8 trillion intrusion attempts in 2020. Threat actors have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to carry out attacks on individuals and organizations alike, with the rise in remote working leaving IT systems even more vulnerable.

To combat this, organizations are levelling-up both their infrastructure and their people: 48% of IT leaders surveyed by Dynabook cited cybersecurity infrastructure as a key investment priority over the next year, followed by IT training for staff (40%). The report also found that more than three-quarters (77%) of businesses regarded security software as more important now than they did in 2019.

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While much emphasis has been placed on the importance of software for remote working, Dynabook’s research also highlighted the increased value placed on laptops.

Employees at 86% of organizations surveyed by Dynabook were using laptops for remote working. The UK saw the highest disparity between laptops and desktops usage, with 90% of UK companies using laptops and only a third (33%) using desktops while working remotely.

As such, two-thirds (66%) of organizations said they were planning to integrate more laptops into their remote-working infrastructure over the next 12 months.

Beyond these immediate priorities, a greater emphasis is also being placed on automation tools (60%) and wearable devices (59%), Dynabook found.

“Armed with increased budgets, it’s evident that the role of the device has grown in importance as organizations realise the vital role hardware plays – alongside the right software – in keeping employees secure, connected and productive in this new world,” said Jaume.