The initiative, called Branch Force, was outlined in a leaked memo sent to staff at the taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland.
The plea for help was met by a string of negative comments from shocked staff, with one saying “RBS has lost the plot”.
Another responded to the memo, issued on Monday, asking if it was April 1 or December 1.
The memo reads: “Colleagues from across the bank can sign up to play their part and help to improve their local RBS or NatWest branch through painting, tidying up and general DIY as part of Branch Force.
“If you would like more information about how you can give some of your spare time to help spruce up your local branch, register on the dedicated intranet page. We’ll then match you to a Branch Force day, in your preferred area, held in January next year.”
A recent survey of RBS and NatWest’s 1683 branches revealed that more than 400 need help with technology and property issues, with branch managers requesting help with general DIY and repairs.
An RBS spokeswoman confirmed “spare time” could involve staff doing work voluntarily outside their normal working hours, for example on Saturdays. She added: “It would be up to them when they want to give up their time.”
Jane Howard, managing director, branch and private banking, said: “Our branches are the face of our business and we are continuing to make a substantial investment in their modernisation and refurbishment. However, there are many things which require immediate attention, simple things that by working together we can fix.”
Calvin O’Brien, of personal and business banking services, added: “Branch Force will demonstrate the power of working together, as people from across the bank support our frontline colleagues to deliver an outstanding customer experience.”
Within hours the announcement had attracted a swathe of negative comments, with one disgruntled employee asking if it was “1 April not 1 December”.
Employees have flooded the DIY SOS post on the bank’s internal server, Insite, with comments. One said: “Totally stunned. RBS has completely lost the plot.”
Another added: “Is the bank really in such dire straits that it has come to this? If I wanted to volunteer I would do so for a charity and not so the bank can avoid paying professionals.”
Hundreds of employees then “liked” posts that criticised the “farcical” initiative labelling it an “all-time low”.
One worker stated: “Does anyone review the strategy and communications of content on Insite? Clearly not. Asking staff to do painting, tidying up and general DIY in branches is incredibly embarrassing.”
The plea to staff members’ charitable natures follows last Thursday’s announcement scrapping Your Bank, a long-standing scheme that provided a range of discounted mortgages and loans for staff.
A spokeswoman for RBS added: “This initiative is voluntary, and enables our head office teams to spend more time in branches allowing frontline staff to focus on our customers.”