To insure punctuality of attendance in the morning, some banks adopt the practice of keeping a book, in which every clerk writes his name on his arrival, and when the time has expired, a line is drawn, which shows who has arrived in time, and who has arrived late.
Punctuality of attendance is an index of character. It may fairly be inferred that those who are the most punctual in the morning will be most attentive to their duties during the day, that they have formed the most regular habits, and are, consequently, the most deserving of promotion. Those, too, who are the most punctual are the most deserving of occasional holidays. They who are habitually late must be regarded as having chosen to take their holidays by piece-meal each day, and they can, therefore, have no claim to other holidays besides. In all applications for promotion or leave of absence, it is deserving of inquiry, whether the party is usually punctual in his attendance. With regard to absence from illness, it cannot be supposed for a moment that any clerk would pretend to be ill when he is not so, in order to have an excuse for absenting himself from the bank. An act of this kind would show such a want of personal honour as should be a disqualification for holding any office in a bank.
"Few things occasion more dissatisfaction and annoyance to the superiors in a bank than the absence of clerks on every slight attack of illness. Unless a clerk feels himself quite unable to perform his duties, it is very injudicious for him to absent himself. It interferes with his promotion, for his superiors will be reluctant to advance him to any post where his absence would be more inconvenient than while he is engaged in an inferior situation. In addition to this, the superior in the office may attribute the attack of 'bile' or 'indigestion' to the indulgence of a convivial taste, which it will be well for a clerk to avoid obtaining a character for. And, under any circumstances, a man who continues at his post as long as he is able, will stand much higher in the estimation of those with whom he is engaged than he who forsakes his duties on every trivial occasion."l
A clerk should take care of his own health. We think it is better for him to stand than to sit at his work. His desk should be raised to such a height that he can do this without stooping. He should at all times avoid pressing his chest against the edge of the desk, as that may produce serious complaints. The post most friendly to health is that of cashier. He is generally standing; his attention and mental faculties are in more constant activity, and he is obliged to talk, which is useful to the lungs. It may be doubted whether the exercise of the intellectual faculties, when not carried to excess nor attended with anxiety, is ever injurious to health. Those mental operations which are connected with the office of a bank clerk are in themselves beneficial. It is the confinement, the impure air, and the keeping of the body too long in one posture, that affects the health. Hence clerks should live at a distance from the bank, and waft to and fro. If they reside at the bank, they should take exercise in the open air, either in the morning or the evening. When the weather is bad, they can walk up and down the room, with the windows open. Any kind of amusement that should throw the body into a variety of attitudes would be useful. Singing is friendly to health, if not carried to excess, nor practised in confined or crowded apartments. Boating, in moderation, is serviceable. Gardening is highly beneficial. A clerk who wishes to enjoy good health should never keep late hours, nor get into debt, nor gamble in the funds. He should also have a hobby, that is, some kind of fixed amusement to employ his time when absent from the bank, in order to change the current of his thoughts, and to counteract those evils that sometimes arise from monotony of occupation. If this hobby should be of a kind to be useful or instructive as well as recreative, all the better. The great disease against which he should guard is consumption. He will be more subject to this in youth than in more advanced age. And it has been remarked that healthy young men, fresh from the country, when appointed clerks, have become more susceptible of consumption than less robust persons who have been seasoned by a residence in London. The Bank of England have a medical gentleman who attends at the bank one hour every day. He is employed by the directors upon matters connected with the health of their clerks. Every clerk, when appointed, is examined, to ascertain that he is in good health. If he applies for leave of absence on the ground of ill-health, he undergoes a medical examination. If absent from illness, he is visited by the bank surgeon, who reports to the directors upon the nature of his complaint, and its probable duration. If a clerk complains that his employment is injurious to his health, he is examined, and in some cases his employment is changed. If he applies for a pension on account of age or illness, he is also examined. In each of these cases a formal medical report is drawn up, and laid before the directors. It is not the duty of the surgeon to prescribe for the clerks; but in the case of the porters or messengers, he acts as their medical attendant, and is paid by the bank.
1 "The Bankers Clerk," p. 151, an excellent little work, published as one of the series in the Guide to Service, by Mr. Charles Knight.
It is worthy of inquiry, whether this excellent arrangement might not be extended, and adopted by other banking institutions. Why should not every large company give a fixed salary to a medical man to attend to the health of all their clerks? This would often be useful in preventing illness, or in checking its first approaches. It would thus preclude, in some cases, those inconveniences which are now felt through the absence of sick clerks; while it would be a boon to the establishment, and save them what, in some instances, must be a heavy item of expense.