Wireless technologies have made the 24×7 mobile office a reality for business travellers. The biggest problem now is finding the downtime to completely disconnect from work, according to CIOs and IT directors.

All of silicon.com’s 12-man CIO Jury IT user panel said they are able to easily stay connected and get work done when they are on the road.

Many cited the now almost ubiquitous executive travel tool, the BlackBerry. Jacques Rene, director of IT and projects at insurance company Airclaims, hailed it as a “godsend”, while Colin Cobain, IT director at Tesco, called the wireless email device a “star”.

Graham Yellowley, director of technology at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, added: “Having been initially sceptical of BlackBerrys I have to admit that the email connectivity is excellent and that this is a major benefit. The ability to be permanently online – except in Japan – and have instant access to email without having to carry bulky laptops or power cords or phone cables is very beneficial work-wise.”

Others said the downside is that it is now almost impossible to get away from work, whatever the time of day and wherever you are in the world.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO at Manpower, said: “People can always find me. Gone are the good old days when you could relax with a nice drink in an airport lounge. Now every part of the planet is an extension of the office.”

Steve Ritchie, CIO at Investcorp, said: “It’s too easy to stay connected and get work done when on the road. There is no longer any excuse not to be working. With BlackBerrys, PDAs, laptops, wi-fi hotspots and high-speed internet from hotel rooms there really is no way to honestly say you cannot stay connected.”

Another problem that is aggravated by greater mobile connectivity, according to Nick Masterson-Jones, IT director at payments body Voca (formerly Bacs), is getting people to “mentally disconnect” from work when they are travelling on holiday.

The mobile workforce also presents issues for the IT department. Mark Foulsham, IT director at eSure, said: “Remote access for the business user is all about simplicity and relevance. The interface and device needs to be straightforward to use and applicable for the roles performed by employees. The challenge of the IT function is to provide a ‘pick and mix’ solution which is also cost effective and secure to support.”

Check out silicon.com’s Business Traveller special report and our guide to the top 10 gadgets for staying in touch on the road.

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Chris Broad, head of IS and technology, UK Atomic Energy Authority
Colin Cobain, IT director, Tesco
Peter Dew, CIO, BOC
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
Chris Ford, director of IS, Severn Trent Water
Mark Foulsham, IT director, eSure
Mark Lichtenhein, director of IT and new media, PGA European Tour
Nick Masterson-Jones, IT director, Voca
Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer services, Ashford Borough Council
Jacques Rene, director of IT and projects, Airclaims
Steve Ritchie, CIO, Investcorp
Mark Saysell, IT director, Coutts Retail Communications UK
Graham Yellowley, director of technology, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com’s CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com