Remote Working: A Day in the Life of Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Andy Downey – Cadet Executive Officer at Merseyside Army Cadet Force

Having started full time employment with NW RFCA in November last year and retiring from 39 years of regular Army service in January this year, who would have anticipated that five months from starting my daily train commute to Altcar Training Camp, I would be earning a living from my own back garden.  Something I dreamed about for the last decade.

In mid-March it became clear that we would soon have government restrictions placed upon our well established working practices, a well-oiled machine was about to be tested against its own business contingency plans.  On Tuesday 17 March, I took the bold decision to ask all staff to work from home until further notice whilst we carried out a number of planning sessions to establish a COVID-19 reducing the risk plan.

Staff scrabbled to check laptops, VPNs, files and any other items they may need to work from home.  Resources were about to be tested to the limit.  Communications were the key driver if we were to remain effective.  I can report after a lot of work in ten days all PSS were able to use diverted office phones, emails, network files and hold routine Skype and Zoom conferences with all stakeholders across Merseyside.

It did not take long for all other organisations to draw up their contingency plans and we received a number of non-discretionary tasks from NW RFCA to check on the security and maintenance of our isolated cadet huts across the region.  Along with a well written letter from the CE to confirm key worker status to all staff on such tasks.  A task that allowed individuals to get out and about during the government restrictions. A task that will also ensure a managed return to the cadet locations when required.              

The next challenge came from Regional Command with a number of Lines of Operation that was to be their branch focus. Keep the flame alive, support and enable remote training for CFAV’s and Cadets, just the first two of five. This required some thought and a completely new method of delivering support from the PSS.  Early work on communications and IT paid dividends and we hit the ground running to support our CFAV’s and Cadets using a number of platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom.   

Remote working as been a challenge for the whole team, we have succeed in maintaining an effective level of support to our CFAV’s and Cadets in line with the government strategy of Stay At Home, Protect The NHS and Save Lives.  My first five months with RFCA will not go unforgotten.            

Reserve Forces