Volumes have been written by medical men upon the advantages of fresh air, and on the unwholesome atmosphere of crowded cities. If the air that circulates in the streets of towns and cities is impure, what must be the state of those offices or rooms where twenty or thirty persons are breathing close together during the whole of the clay, and gas lights are "burning during the evening? In such cases we are told that a person afflicted with consumption of the lungs may communicate the complaint to others, as they must inhale a portion of the atmosphere which he has breathed out. The air in a close office is not only rendered impure by the number of people that breathe it, and by the burning of gas, but it also contains very frequently particles of dust arising from the floor, through the number of people constantly walking in and out. It is almost impossible for persons so circumstanced to enjoy for a length of time even moderate health. A portion of this evil may be mitigated by a good system of ventilation. To obtain this should be regarded as an object of the first importance. If a banker does not insist upon the architect performing this in the most effectual manner, he must be content to be often put to inconvenience through the illness and consequent absence of his clerks.
Having made due provision for space, light, and ventilation, it will now become necessary to arrange the counter, desks, and other furniture, so as to enable any given number of clerks to discharge their duties with the greatest efficiency, and so as best to promote the public convenience. It is not necessary, or possible, to give very minute instructions on this head, as much will depend upon the form of the building, the extent of the business, and other circumstances. We will notice only a few general objects to be kept in view.
It is desirable at all times to make those arrangements that shall best promote the convenience of the public.
The counter should be readily accessible, and of sufficient length to meet the requirements of the business; and the cashiers' desks sufficiently wide apart for the public to be promptly served, and to stand without jostling one another. Some banks have two counters, one for paying, and the other for receiving. When the business is la extra or supernumerary cashiers are appointed, who take the place of the regular cashiers when they are absent at dinner or otherwise, so that during the whole of the day all the cashiers' desks are occupied. To relieve the counter, the payment of bills that have been presented in the morning and not paid, is usually received at a separate desk or office. All these are expedients that should be adopted when necessary, to save the time of the public. There are few things that try a man's temper more than to be kept waiting a long time at a banker's counter; and he will be very apt to give vent to his impatience by quarrelling with the clerks, or reproaching the establishment.
Another object is, to place near together those clerks whose duties will require them to have frequent communication with each other. If this rule be not observed, the clerks will lose much time in the course of the day in passing from one part of the office to the other; and the work will not be so expeditiously performed. It is especially desirable that the ledger keepers should be placed close behind the cashiers; so that if a doubtful cheque be presented for payment, the cashier may be able to show it to the ledger keeper, and be informed if he may pay it, without being observed by the party presenting it.
Another point is, to place the desk of the chief or head clerk in such a position that he can see all over the office. "A master's eye will do more work than both his hands." In this case, if the counter is crowded, the chief clerk will perceive it, and appoint additional clerks to assist the cashiers. If disputes take place between the clerks, or between the cashiers and the public, he will come forward and settle the matter before the dispute is carried to high words. He will observe, too, the customers who come frequently to the counter, and from their transactions he will often draw conclusions respecting their circumstances, which will be serviceable to the bank. It is generally best that many of the clerks should be so placed as to look towards the counter. It has been said that this draws off their attention from their work; but we do not think this is generally the case, although it may occasionally relieve the irksomeness of their duties. A dishonest person standing at the counter, and watching an opportunity of committing a robbery when the cashier is engaged, will be more likely to abstain from making the attempt when the eyes of other clerks have a command of the counter. This arrangement will depend in some measure on the direction of the light. The clerks should not have their faces or their backs towards the window, but the light should fall on them sideways. These matters may appear trifling, but they will not be deemed unimportant to those who are entrusted with the practical administration of an office. It is only by attention to minute things that the business of an office can be well conducted.