(Photo: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg)

Responding to orders that employees should work from home starting Tuesday in San Francisco to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Charles Schwab  based there and with large facilities near Dallas, Austin and Phoenix  has struggled to make arrangements to comply. 

Executives said at midday Tuesday that some 7,000 of the firm’s 20,000 employees are working from home in different locations.

“Even with our plans in place, this crisis has brought forth some unpredictable issues that we are working to address now,” according to a staff memo from Nigel Murtagh, executive vice president of corporate risk, that was obtained by Bloomberg. 

“Like many companies, we simply did not build into our plan the need to have the majority of employees work from home at the same time. So we are in the process of building out that capability now, as quickly as possible,” Murtagh explained.

After being taken to task on the firm’s response to the coronavirus Tuesday on Twitter, Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger updated the firm’s policies Wednesday on LinkedIn: “Starting tomorrow, all employees who have the ability to work remotely may do so.”

Still, Bettinger said, some “critical functions” must continue to be done on site  network operations, cybersecurity, trading and other areas. For roles that need more infrastructure to be done remotely, he said “leadership will guide you on the process for getting the right tools as quickly as possible.” 

Call-center work must also be performed on site, according to an email from Schwab spokeswoman Mayura Hooper cited by Bloomberg. On Monday, the firm ordered some 12,000 employees to report to work in back offices and call centers in an email seen by RIABiz.

The firm also said Schwab employees below the officer level would receive a $1,000 “spot bonus.”

“Eligible employees can expect to see the discretionary bonus, net of taxes, in an upcoming pay period,” Bettinger said.

Employees that must report to offices will have to adhere to current health guidelines and social distancing practices, she said. Retail branches in the Bay Area are closed to the public through April 7.

— Related on ThinkAdvisor: