when my office lets us out early before a holiday, why don’t they tell us in advance?

A reader writes:

I’m hoping you can shed some light on the reasons behind this practice.

Usually on the day before a holiday (Friday before Labor Day, Christmas Eve, etc), our office will let us out a few hours early (say, 2:00 or 3:00 PM). It’s a nice practice and meant as a sign of goodwill, but it doesn’t end up having that affect. Everyone in the office spends the day in anticipation of being let go early and as more hours tick by, we get more and more annoyed (ex: “Geez, it’s already 2:00, why haven’t they sent the email yet?!” ) By time we actually do get let out early, nobody is happy, we’re all just annoyed. We would all be so much happier if they told us earlier the office would be closing early that day so we could both plan and be happy when we’re let out early!

This has happened in every office I’ve worked in. Why do they continue to do this?

Yes, it’s really common — and the response you describe is really normal too.

In some cases employers do this because they genuinely don’t know yet if they’ll be able to close early. Sometimes they’re waiting to make sure key tasks are completed in time or business is truly as slow as they expect it will be or nothing comes in at the last minute that they’ll need staff to deal with.

But in a lot of other cases, it’s because they want it to seem like a treat every time. If they make it policy that they always close early on holiday weekends (or whenever), then people will start to see it as a regular part of their package of holidays and it won’t feel like as much of a treat or morale boost.

And if they ever have to change it and have people stay the whole day, people will feel like something is being taken away from them and there will be grumbling and resentment.

So while I’m with you that it’s of course nicer to know in advance if you’re closing early, sometimes there really are legitimate reasons to wait before announcing it. (Not so much “we want it to feel like a treat” — they’re an employer, not your parents surprising you on Christmas morning — but the rest of it.)

{ 229 comments… read them below }

  1. Sloan Kittering*

    This is one of those treats that is well meant but can backfire. My old office used to make us come in on the days before holidays – and if you took it as vacation time, you had to use leave – but they would dismiss us as early as noon. While very kind, I would not have made my hour long commute if I’d known I would just be turning around and driving right back again!

    1. Dwight*

      Presumably you would still be getting paid a full day even if you drove two hours to only work three, as opposed to driving two hours to work eight? I don’t know, seems like a good deal no matter how you spin it. What more? That you would rather a full paid day without working?

      1. Liane*

        If they are in the US, getting paid for the full day depends on whether Sloan Kittering is exempt or not. If they aren’t, they will only get 8 hours if they have a good boss. I was the only hourly employee in a lab for years, and yes, I did get my full day’s pay–but that was because Lab Manager always told me to put down my full hours.

        1. Not Me*

          Plenty of employers will still pay non-exempt employees for the couple of hours they leave early before a holiday. That’s why the employer and the employee consider it a “perk” or a “gift”. Otherwise they’re just docking people’s pay the week before a holiday and that’s a bad look.

        1. Former Church Lady in HR*

          Same for me. I was a contractor without benefits and truly needed every hour possible to be paid. When I was sent home 4 hours early on Christmas eve and then was not paid for Christmas day, I lost a third of my potential earning for the week.

          1. starsaphire*

            I know I am truly blessed as a contractor, because my supervisor *always* stops by my cube and reminds me to mark down a full 8 hours for the day and then “go home already!”

            Blessed, I tell you. *knocking on wood*

            1. LLG612*

              This is what I do for all of my staff. Including shutting down the office between Christmas and New Years and paying hourly staff the equivalent of their highest week worked in the last 4 for that time.

              1. RecoveringSWO*

                Bless you! I was the only hourly employee at an old job and got the opposite treatment. I hope your practice spreads!

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      But if you did not want to make the commute you had the option of using PTO/vacation to avoid coming in to work that day. Between the two options, 1) commute into work, work for 4 hours but get paid for the full day and leave early without having to use PTO/vacation, or 2)commute to work work a full day and commute home I will take option number 1 all the time.

      In fact I usually try to avoid taking a day off the before a holiday because I would rather get the free PTO.

      1. Jennifer*

        Everyone and their great-grandma wants to take the Friday before Labor Day off, at least they do here. It’s not the easiest day to take off unless you request it early. Same with Christmas Eve or any other holiday. I prefer working on those days since it’s usually a light day and there aren’t many in the office. I’d rather not waste a PTO day if I don’t really need it.

        1. Roy G. Biv*

          My company has fixed that issue by consistently placing our floating holiday on the Friday before Labor Day, and for that, we are grateful. My partner reminds me of this when I complain about work things; “Well, at least you get a guaranteed 4 day weekend for something other than just Thanksgiving. ” So yes, truly grateful.

    3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I learned the hard way. It seemed whenever there was an early dismissal I had taken the commuter bus so being dismissed at 2pm meant I had 3 hours to kill before the bus arrived.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Personally I’d rather be getting something accomplished rather than waiting aimlessly at a bus stop (there may not be anything by the bus stop for you to spend your time doing). Some people will welcome the 3 hours, but not everyone will.

        2. JSPA*

          Depends if you overall like, tolerate or hate your job. If I had a job I regularly hated more than waiting 3 hours for a bus (including all the risks that entails, when people see you hanging out and decide you’ve nowhere to go, which makes you a target for every grifter) I’d be looking to change jobs.

          1. Isabel Kunkle*

            Also on where your job is. Most of my non-WFH jobs have been in fairly central-city locations, so if I had an unexpected couple hours, there was always the option of getting coffee and settling in with a book. As I’ve been an urban girl for all of my professional life, it’s hard to imagine an office without even a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby, but I know secondhand that they do exist, and waiting for three hours there would be a giant pain.

      1. Cat's Pajamas*

        Yup, I used to be in a similar situation. With the added bonus of the higher ups hovering around and asking multiple times why I haven’t left yet… Yes, I’d rather wait at the unshelteted transit station with a sketchy bathroom and no internet for 3 hours rather than staying in our more comfortable and quiet office… Ugh!

      1. Sally*

        It doesn’t seem like that works very well, especially if everyone comes to expect it. Then, whether they acknowledge that it’s an ongoing benefit or not, seems like people begin to see it that way anyhow, and the “I’m giving you a treat” factor goes out the window.

      2. Emelle*

        Yup. I can still see that benevolent/creepy smile our CEO used to have when he sent us home at 4 on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

      3. Cathie Fonz*

        Yes, I think it is a power thing — I remember one HR director who would circulate thorough the whole 100-person office at about 10 am on Christmas Eve and tell us how he was going to ask the Deputy Minister if we could all go home at noon. Then he would keep coming around, giving us continuous updates on whether the DM was available yet and whether he had been able to get into see him yet. So everyone was hovering around dancing attendance on him all morning. And so I started to consider how goofy it really was — he’s had ALL YEAR to ask the DM if we could go home early on Christmas Eve, didn’t either of them know that Christmas was coming? They were acting like nobody had ever heard of this unusual situation ever before! After that, I just ignored him until finally, at about 11:45, the big announcement was made.
        And then there were the office games — another time, when I was working at a college office, the dean would always send everybody home at noon on Christmas Eve except for a administrator or two who kept the phones answered until 4 pm. And every year, at least one poor foreign student would show up at 3:30 pm with a non-urgent question, having been sent over by one of the central administration offices which were not allowed to leave early — our theory was that the central office was just trying to get the college office in trouble for not being available to serve a student. Oh, Christmas fun!

    4. Ella bee bee*

      I once asked my boss at an old job if I could have a day off the day before a holiday weekend because I wanted to travel. She said no, which is understandable since a lot of people try to take those days off, and so I didn’t make any travel plans because it would have been a really long trip to make for only 1 full day there (I would have spent the bulk of Saturday and Monday traveling there and back.) The day before the day I had requested off, as I was leaving my boss came up and was just like, “surprise! You can have tomorrow off!” Like she had said no originally just to surprise me with it later. I told her I wouldnt be taking the day off, since it was too late to take my trip. She was very offended that I wasn’t super grateful for the “surprise” but I was pissed off. That boss was a disaster in every area.

      1. Kara*

        This is a perfect example of why “surprise” time off sucks. Unless it’s a true surprise for everyone, like an unexpected snow day.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Does OP work for the US federal government, or someplace else with a similar level of mind-number procedures and rules?

    It was even more maddening to work there as a contractor. The actual government employees could leave early & get paid for the full day; contractors were generally banished from the building, the contracting agency wouldn’t pay our employers for the time, and so we were forced to take vacation or leave without pay at literally no notice.

    1. de Pizan*

      I work for a state government–my boss can let us go 59 minutes early without having to get prior approval (and still get paid for that last hour). But for leaving 60 minutes early (or more), it can only come from the head of our entire agency.

      1. QuinleyThorne*

        I work for the state as well. Typically, we follow the schedule of the governor’s office regarding holidays–if they’re closed, we’ll close as well. We have the added bonus of our governor being a practicing Catholic, so during the Easter holiday, we get a half-day before Good Friday, Good Friday, and then the following Monday is usually a skeleton-crew day. The head of our agency usually determines any additional skeleton-crew days (ex: if a holiday is on a Thursday, he’ll usually make the day after a skeleton-crew day).

      2. De Minimis*

        My wife used to work for the state government. They often had an early release the day before certain holidays, but they weren’t allowed to announce it over e-mail because they didn’t want any documentation. They were hypersensitive to any criticism about state employees being out early. Everything had to be done over the phone, so it took forever even after the decision was made by the head of the department—each person under them had to be called individually, and it continued down the chain.

        I worked as a federal contractor and it was announced well in advance when we were closing early.

        1. de Pizan*

          I’m sure it would probably be the same way in my agency–although so far since I’ve worked there, as an entire agency we’ve never had early release. Just one day before Memorial day weekend that my immediate 8 person department got let out 59 minutes early (although 5 of those people were already taking the whole day off so my boss finally took pity on the two of minions still working….).

        2. CatCat*

          I work in the same type of place. And that’s how once no one told me (I work in a different location than the rest of my team).

        3. Canada Goose*

          I’ve worked in government at the Federal and Provincial levels (Canada) and this is exactly the case. The outcry at public servants being given an early release “on the public dime” means that everything is done via telephone. We can never assume that we will be let go early, although we almost always are.

      3. JimmyJab*

        I work for state gov and we almost always get out early on this type of day – our agency head decides. The way I look at it, I assume I’m going to work, don’t make plans for getting out early, and just take it as a bonus. Once in awhile they tell us a couple days ahead of time, which is great and obviously allows for planning but its not expected here.

    2. Powercycle*

      I in government (not US) and I’ve been told the decision to leave early comes from the top and then works it’s way down the management chain. Some years that could take a couple hours. But it’s such a regular thing now (especially on Christmas Eve but also New Years Eve) that around 11:00 people start trickling out without the official word (but their immediate supervisor would okay it). Most jobs I’ve had, we’d didn’t get much work done those days anyways. Kids everywhere, food, visit from Santa…

    3. Robbenmel*

      I worked for a large state university for many years. There was no policy about leaving early on the day before a holiday, but we could count on our assistant director coming through the office just before lunchtime, and saying out loud to the air, “If I come through here after lunch and you are not at your desk, I will assume you are elsewhere on university business.”
      But that was just our little office (about 15 people.) It was nice, but nothing official at all. And I assume if she hadn’t been there for some reason, we would’ve had to work the whole day.

    4. k*

      This isn’t just governmental employees. I work at a private company and this happens from time to time. But because I’m an hourly contractor, it’s not a perk at all. It’s a surprise $100+ expense. So it’d be nice to get advance warning of that.

  3. Herding Butterflies*

    Our office does this RARELY. Consider yourself lucky that this is something you have come to rely on. Which is basically my point: this is a gift. Do not look a gift horse in the mouth. This perk can be quickly taken away.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      Yes, as soon as it becomes an Official Thing, it has to go in the employee handbook and becomes a part of the official benefit package…and if it there are years that, for good reasons, this can’t happen (e.g., we’re usually let go early for Good Friday, but one year the board of directors was in, so anybody answerable to the board, which is to say all of us, needed to be there unless we’d taken a vacation day), then it becomes a sore spot because people have now officially lost a benefit.

      So yes, just look at it as a nice little perk and enjoy it as it comes.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        I mean, you can keep it from being an official policy while still giving your staff *some* kind of notice. If you know on Wednesday that Friday is going to be a half day, why not inform people then so they can plan their stuff accordingly?

        I’ve seen emails with the caveat “as your workload allows” or “per your supervisor’s permission” to hedge some of the problems above.

        1. Herding Butterflies*

          That’s the problem: we don’t know on Wednesday if Friday can be a half day. I’m in a deadline driven industry. Our work load varies from month to month, season to season, heck, day to day, depending on how much work we have and when the deadlines are scheduled. For us, if we are in the middle of deadlines, then there can be no gift of time off, because people will skip out instead of getting their work done and meeting a deadline.

          It’s only when management knows a) deadlines are being handled and we are on track or b) it’s obvious everyone is phoning it in, that we will let people go home early. This could be 2 pm, 3 pm or never.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          We are sometimes told in advance, though usually not more than a couple of hours in advance. (They did tell us a week or two in advance that we wouldn’t get out early that Good Friday when the board was in.) And the reason is, they really don’t know much ahead of time. They probably know sooner than they tell us, but not a lot sooner.

        3. HigherEd on Toast*

          The problem I’ve seen with this is that with enough advance notice, some people will then just not show up- not taking a sick day or a vacation day, just not there. And if there are tasks they actually do need to perform until 12 PM or 2 PM or whatever, this is a major PITA.

          /worked at a college where they gave students the whole week for Thanksgiving off, and it resulted in a lot of absences the Thursday and Friday before, among both staff and students

          1. CB*

            The private university I work at does something similar. Staff that come in the day before a holiday, but are released early, get paid for a full day of work without having to use PTO (this includes both exempt and non-exempt employees). If someone has already taken the day off as PTO and doesn’t come in to work, they still have to take the full day off as PTO.

    2. Witchy Human*

      Office perks aren’t gifts.

      This is a calculation. They’re weighing staff time lost vs. employee morale and deciding which is worth more to the company.

      And if they aren’t getting as much morale bang for their buck as they could be if they changed the format of the announcements, then they’re making a mistake.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s not a gift in the traditional sense and simply not how employment works.

      Employees shouldn’t live in a world where they’re just happy to get whatever “perks” or “treats” that happen to get tossed to them. They’re not dogs waiting for table scraps.

      This is the same concept when you think about company provided meals/snacks. If someone cannot eat it, they should always be able to speak up and make it known so they can adjust for that person to enjoy the perk if possible.

      The point of these things is to enhance morale in the end and when everyone is stressing out about it, it’s backfiring.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Speaking only for myself, I don’t stress out about it because I don’t count on it. (Commenter Third or Nothing, who mentions in a post a little below this one that his or her company lets them out early every single Friday, is in a much trickier position.) So when it happens, it’s great, and when it doesn’t, it’s usually fairly obvious why. So I really do think of it as an extra treat. That way I really enjoy it when it happens and don’t mind too much when it doesn’t.

        1. Wing Leader*

          I do this as well. I am in one of those offices that will *usually* let us off a few hours early on the day before a holiday. Sometimes they don’t though, for different reasons or if too much is going on. However, I just always assume that we aren’t getting off early and it’s going to be a full day of work. I’ve found this is the easiest way to manage it.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I’m the same way, I don’t care either way honestly. I don’t really find a perk to being let out early, I have a boring home life [that I love but honestly, it’s just releasing me to go play with my cat and watch a couple extra episodes of whatever I’m watching at the time.]

          But the OP of the letter Alison is responding to says people in their office are stressing out and that’s not good! Stress is one of the factors employers have to always try to lessen, since most jobs have some amount of it, so why would you ever want them to be bogged down by something like schedule changes that are supposed to be a good thing?

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        One more comment to say I wish everyone cared as much about accommodating food sensitivities as you do.

    4. kittymommy*

      Seriously. I work for local government and unless it is approved by the elected officials, it doesn’t happen (in fact, it can’t happen). We must stay open until the normally scheduled close time, even if that means one person has to stay for a non-ringing phone, because there is the outside chance someone might stop by and need something. And I guarantee you that one person will arrive at 4:50 and cry bloody murder why that office wasn’t open when they needed it on Christmas Eve (and for a routine, non-emergency reason).

      Once did my office get sent home early and that was be cause a senior director offered to stay and answer phones.

      1. Fiddlesticks*

        Yep. This is us, too. As a local government we can’t close early unless the City Council passes a resolution at the previous Council meeting stating “City Hall will close for business at noon on December 24…” blah, blah. They won’t do it because they think it makes us look like lazy freeloaders on the taxpayers. BUT the fact is that at least 50% of the workers have taken vacation that day, the people who are here aren’t doing much of anything except feeling grumpy, the public isn’t calling or coming in for assistance (because, Christmas Eve!) – except, yeah, there’s always that one guy who arrives at one minute until closing time to pay his utility bill which wasn’t due for two more weeks anyway.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s sad because most of us citizens assume y’all are closed or will be leaving early a lot of times. Hence why you’re so dead that day [along with the fact others are celebrating already of course and have rerouted their need for city hall for after the holiday of course].

      2. Samwise*

        Us too — large state university. The boss will stay til the bitter end to let the rest of us go. Or, as has happened during impending bad weather (hurricanes, ice) and for other reasons the bosses are already out of the office, hourly workers are stuck unless someone says, I live close so I’ll answer the phones, please go get your kids and go home. Because even if the governor says, Everyone go home, it’s not safe to be on the roads, the university is *open* and the great grand boss insists that every office in our unit must be *open* the full hours.

        Not that this bothers me in any way…

    5. Oh No She Di'int*

      So I used to be a manager in a business that simply did not DO bonuses. There were lots of other perks of working there, but as a small business, financial bonuses was not one of them. One year, the owners got it in their heads to do something a little special: At the end-of-year holiday party, they handed out envelopes to each employee who then opened them en masse. Each employee received $250 cash. That’s not a ton of money obviously, but because it was a complete surprise, everyone was genuinely delighted.

      The following year, in the managers’ meeting, the subject came up of doing another surprise bonus. I voted against it fast. I was not very popular. My reasoning was this: as soon as people come to expect it, it will suddenly seem like not enough. What started out as the delightful little surprise cash win will quickly turn into that “crappy little $250 bucks at the end of the year”. I heartily recommended doing it unpredictably and not especially often.

    6. MommyMD*

      Exactly. Maybe they should just institute automatic full day since employees are griping about what many of us never get.

  4. Third or Nothing!*

    My office does this too! We’re always let go at 3:00 on Fridays. Never in my 7 years of working here has there been a week where management asked everyone to keep chugging along until 5, yet every week we wait for the email saying we can go. I’ve always thought it a bit odd.

    They recently started announcing early holiday closures (noon the day before the holiday) a week in advance, which is really nice. I appreciate having more time to plan!

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      So my back-of-napkin math says that in your tenure you’ve gotten in the neighborhood of 350 emails telling you to go home early on Friday. That is not usually the definition of an unofficial policy!

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I know right? You’d think they’d just come out and say our hours are 8-3 on Fridays already. Everyone already operates like that anyway – bids due on Friday have a deadline of noon. I guess they just want us to keep feeling like it’s a nice perk?

    2. Emily K*

      I can see an argument for waiting but doing it with literally no notice seems extreme. My office typically closes early (exact time varies) the day before a holiday weekend, but it’s always posted the night before on our company intranet’s front page, “If you have your manager’s permission you may leave at X time on Friday.”

      With the caveat that my manager is a fair and reasonable person who I can’t recall ever not letting me leave early on those days, I think it’s a nice compromise because it reminds us that it’s a perk and means we might have to hustle a bit harder on Friday morning or not get out until 3:30 instead of 3, because “officially” speaking it’s is a workday so you still have to get your work done to take advantage of the treat. But we know about it no later than start time on Friday so you can still map out your day around the early dismissal time.

  5. NopeNopeNope*

    Our old controller used to let us go early on most day-before-a-holiday but it was usually only an hour or so and definitely wasn’t all. New controller mentioned at 4:45 we could head out early the Friday before Labor Day.

    Oh…and he emailed it via his phone because he had left an hour or so before that without telling anyone (no line of sight to his office). He also requested someone turn off his office light because he “forgot”

    1. Louise*

      I worked at a place where we weren’t let go early but the management would all disappear around noon or 2 pm. Soooooooo…..eveyone would leave.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Could be worse. Every supervisor at one firm let their people leave at noon before a holiday but no one wanted to officially close the office, so the receptionist was stuck in an rmory office, covering for everyone until another admin and I pointed out how unfair and unprofessional it was.

    2. Katrinka*

      My previous supervisor used to let us leave at 4:30ish on the days before holidays. It was nice, but at the same time I got the sense that she wanted us to be much more grateful, as if with that extra 20 minutes, the world was our oyster.

  6. Nodody! Who are you?*

    My favorite example of this was a day when the executive staff had a meeting the day before a holiday. At the end of their meeting, a mass-email went out:

    The office is dismissed at 3PM today. Enjoy the holiday.

    The message was sent at half-past three….

    1. animaniactoo*

      That has sort of happened at my office, except that the executive staff was already gone for the day/had taken it off.

      1. The Original K.*

        Me too. The dismissal was 3:00, the email came in at 4:00, and the person who sent it sent it from home. He admitted in the email to forgetting to tell us.

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          Yep. My boss has done that too. Meant to let us go early and then as I’m heading out told me ‘oh, I meant to let you go early for the holiday’

    2. BetsyTacy*

      It’s always SUPER cool when your office forgets to tell your department…

      My first year, everyone told me that if I was working on (Holiday) eve, they would let us out early. My fellow first year buddy and I were two of the only ones in the office on this day and kept emailing back and forth ‘did you hear anything yet??’

      At 5:15, our boss emailed to tell us it was okay to ‘take off early’. Normal end time was 5:30… Oh, and everyone else had been released between 1-2PM and nobody remembered to tell us…

      1. VERYAnonymous*

        This kind of happened to me. I mentioned heading out a little early and finishing my day remotely on the Friday before a holiday weekend. He tells me to let him think about it and he will call me to check in “in a few hours”.

        15 minutes before the time i normally leave he calls to graciously let me know i can leave early and then launches into telling me his holiday weekend plans and what are mine and blah blah blah.

        I left the office 10 minutes late that day. Everyone else in the office had left hours ago.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          Once, on the day before Thanksgiving, the owner wandered out and said, “How about we close early today?” Great, except that we ordinarily closed at 5:00 PM, and he told us this at 4:50 PM.

      2. Deejay*

        One Christmas I worked in a team which, along with another team in a different building, was under the same director. The director sat with the other team and rarely saw us. So when she said “Right, you can all go home”, she only said it verbally to the team with her. My team was literally out of sight, out of mind and left sitting in an otherwise empty office.

        And that wasn’t even the first time I was stuck working to the usual time on the last working day before Christmas while everyone else got to go home early. In a previous job, the arrangement for that day was “Work till lunchtime, go for lunch at a nearby restaurant, then go home”. As it was an engineering company, that was a complete shutdown until New Year. That morning, one of our directors gave me a piece of work which absolutely had to be done before the Christmas shutdown. So after the lunch I had to go back and finish up in an empty office. If only I’d known that:

        a) The director had known for several days beforehand that the work needed doing but forgot to tell me.
        b) They were going to lay me off two months later.

        Thanks, guys.

    3. Sharkie*

      Ha. My Cousin had a manager that as soon as the ” Office is dissmissed” email went out the manager would send ” You are not dismissed. Working hours are 8-5″ emails. That quickly stopped once the manager accidentally included the CEO!

      1. Lance*

        Gotta love the strict butts-in-seats managers who don’t have any good reason for said butts being in said seats. Good on the CEO for putting a stop to that.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        And more proof that sometimes managers go mega sideways with their powers outside their actual control. I’m glad this accident happened but I’m sad that nobody prior to it had run it up the chain and bypassed the manager making sure that it was indeed within their powers.

        I hope that CEO decided to look deeper into that manager to see what else they were doing that was stepping out of bounds.

        1. Sharkie*

          It was an entry-level job right out of college that was designed to only be 6-18 months long (you would be promoted or invited to interview outside of the company) so the turn over was crazy and I don’t think people understood how wrong it was.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      A few weeks ago we got the “you can leave at 3 if your manager approves it” email on Friday before Labor Day…except all layers of management on our team were gone so we had no one to approve it. It was super fun sitting in an increasingly empty building with everyone walking past saying “you should go home, everyone else has already left!” I was all for just leaving, but others on my team (who have been here much longer than I) said that was Not Done.

      The bigger issue was that a project had hit the fan that morning and we needed a manager’s approval to make a call, but I digress. It was extra not fun to have spent all day struggling through something that having any manager around could have solved and then sitting in an empty office because those missing managers weren’t around to let us leave early with everyone else.

    5. Lady Blerd*

      I had a boss who once let us go at 3:15 the weekend before Christmas when people usually leave between 3 and 4 depending on when they came in. I finished at 4 and once 3pm came and went, I assumed we wouldn’t be let go early. I just rolled my eyes and said I had stuff to finish before leaving, which was true but I would have prioritized what was really important had we been let go earlier.

    6. pony tailed wonder*

      At the university library I work at, it’s a crap shoot if we close early on Good Friday or not. Years ago, we had a woman call us to see if we would be open because she had to use her husband’s car from a few towns over and she called ahead of time to see if we would be open. At the time, we were not allowed to say that the governor might close us down (or might not). We had to state that we were open at the time and had no plans to close early at that time. She twice verbally confirmed with me the hours and my boss was standing by to make sure I stated it correctly. Five minutes after she hung up, we got word that we were to close by the next half hour. I was angry. I hope she called the powers that be and read them the riot act.

  7. Crivens!*

    I was always frustrated by this kind of thing too!

    My last job was even more frustrating: they had apparently let us go early the day before holidays for over a decade. The CEO would announce it every time, walking to each section and letting us know to leave at 2pm.

    At some point they decided to stop doing that. Okay, fine. But the CEO would still walk to each area at around 1pm…to announce that HE was leaving and say goodbye.

  8. Minocho*

    This happens at my office too, and I know that it’s often delayed because management is waiting for time sensitive tasks to be completed. I know these are often accounting related (month close, payroll, etc). It’s a little annoying because I’m not in accounting, but I can only imagine how frustrating it would be for them to see everyone else rolling out while they’re desperately trying to complete said task as well.

    The upside of it is, I can’t afford to plan anything outside of work during those hours, so I do actually have “free” time, that’s not already set aside for something else.!

  9. ES*

    Plus not all employees get to enjoy this benefit. I work in a function at my organization where I produce a daily newsletter for our clients/members, and I have to cover the news that happens, so I rarely get to leave when the office closes at 1:30 or 2 before holidays. Most recently on the Friday before Labor Day we had three big news events happening around 4-5pm that required extensive staff collaboration. Unusual, but had our management announced the office closure beforehand, we would not have had the staff in the office to deal with the news. I think not announcing in advance sets expectations for the team that you need to be there to handle the work that comes up. If it turns out to be a quiet day and we can leave early, all the better.

    1. ZSD*

      Do you think your boss might let you come in late the following Tuesday (day after holiday) instead? That way you still get the extended weekend, just at the other end.

  10. Asenath*

    That’s our Christmas Eve procedure. I don’t think I’ve heard many complaints about it, actually. Perhaps it’s just been a tradition so long people accept it – and of course, assume correctly that it will happen without waiting for the official announcement.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Ah yes, the assumption without the announcement. I remember one year on New Year’s Eve, people had automatically assumed there would be an early finish because it had happened on Christmas Eve, and some people had made plans around that early finish. Then somewhere around 2pm, when we hadn’t officially been told anything, someone said “Maybe we’d better check?” Turned out there was going to be no early finish that day. There were some not very happy people.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Yuck, we always give notice first thing in the morning because we have had people who car share with their spouse or carpool with others in a different company. So it really isn’t a treat to them to throw a wrench in their daily plans given that really big issue.

    1. DAMitsDevon*

      Yes, my office doesn’t always let us know first thing, but we at least know by noon that we can leave at 3 on days before holidays/holiday weekends. Also, when the early dismissal message gets sent out, they do note that you can leave early only if you/your department has nothing like a very firm project deadline/a meeting that can’t be rescheduled. So, for instance, the Friday before Labor Day, my supervisor and I needed to stay until 5 because that was the deadline for a grant application we’re administering and needed to be available when the applicants were getting ready to submit everything. Another coworker had to stay until around 4, because she had a meeting scheduled with some external partners right at 3. However, everyone else was able to wrap up their tasks by 3, and did not have to wait until the last minute to know they could leave early.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The stories here that I’m seeing about people “Forgetting” to tell people until like 3:30 that they can leave at 3 are making my head spin.

        My CEO forgets things from time to time. But if he hasn’t made an announcement by say 10am on an early release kind of day, we’re not just waiting with our mouths zipped wondering when it’s going to happen. People start asking about it. Or they’ll stop by my office and be all “hey are we leaving at 3 or what?” and I go say “Bro, bro, you didn’t confirm early release today.” and the CEO goes “OMG, BRB doing that right now.”

        Yeah there are times when certain people won’t be able to leave early that’s for sure but it’s pretty rare around here.

        1. Thornus*

          Yes, but if Vince or Hunter don’t confirm an early release, you’ll just hit them with a chair. Not everyone works in an industry where inter office disputes are solved with athletically regulated violence!

    2. Becky*

      Generally we get notified a few days before. A couple of times they’ve admitted to forgetting to send the email until right before.
      For a while my department often got left off of the email because we are in a completely different part of the parent organization but do happen to still be in the same building and its by building not by org structure.

    3. Just Another Manic Millie*

      You know what else isn’t a treat? It’s when someone calls your office on the day before a holiday and says, “I have to bring something to your office today. What time will you be closing?” And you have to tell them that you don’t know. And they get angry, because they want to know RIGHT NOW, and you can’t tell them, because the owner is on the phone, and you can’t interrupt him to say that you need to know RIGHT NOW what time the office will be closing. And then you try saying, “I’m sure it won’t be before noon, so you could bring it over before noon,” but that isn’t good enough, because the caller doesn’t want to be forced to bring it over in the morning, because he was hoping to bring it over in the early afternoon, and he went to all the trouble to call first to find out what time we would be closing, and I just wouldn’t tell him. Offering to take a message so that the owner could call him back and say what time we’ll be closing doesn’t work, because the caller wants to know RIGHT NOW and not when the owner happens to get off the fun.

      Yeah, being told at the last minute is such a treat.

      1. Avasarala*

        Yeah, honestly I’m not sure how unpredictable business hours are good for anyone. Either it’s a super rare unusual treat, or decide it a few hours in advance, or let everyone decide their own schedule (“when you’re done with your work today you can leave”)

      2. Isabel Kunkle*

        Ooof. Though, depending on the holiday and business, I’m not overly sympathetic to the customer: like, if you’re waiting until (in the US) Christmas Eve/the Wednesday before Thanksgiving/July 3rd to do whatever you need to do at that office, chances are at least 75% that you can go ahead and wait until the office opens back up after the holiday.

        (Like we used to say about all the ZOMG IT’S VALENTINE’S AND I NEED FLOWERS NOW WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’RE OUT OF ROSES dudes at 5 PM on the 14th, the date’s been on the calendar for a while now. Your lack of planning isn’t my emergency, and so on.)

  12. Arctic*

    Our office used to do this. And then a few years ago they just stopped letting people go early.

    I get not letting anyone know in advance that you can leave early. But I do wish they had let people know in advance that they wouldn’t be doing it anymore. I get that it’s a perk and no one is entitled to it. But everyone waiting around for the email on that first Christmas Eve was sad.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      My office does this ONCE IN A GREAT WHILE, for the reasons listed above, and also they have to get permission from a higher-up in order to do so and that doesn’t happen often. And we can’t leave until 4 because of open hours. So we never quite know, but about 8 times out of 10 we can’t leave.

  13. Rainbow Roses*

    At least you get paid. Our place announce late afternoon that we can leave no earlier than 3pm as long as our work is done and we have to use our vacation time or make up the hours. Hardly anyone take them up on it. We like to take 4 or 8 hour vacation days and that messes up the hours. And who wants to make up the hours during the rest of the week unless you have to?

    1. Anony*

      My former boss did this to me. The entire company would close early, usually around 3pm, with full pay for anyone who was not on PTO that day. My boss insisted the full pay did not apply to me because my role was hourly (in spite of other hourly employees getting this perk). She didn’t bother to tell me this, however, until she stopped by at 2:58 pm to wish me a happy holiday. As I was not in a position to afford having two hours of pay docked unexpectedly, I ended up staying in our dark, empty, locked building until 5pm so she would sign off on my time card. I was the receptionist.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


        You were the only one that wasn’t paid? Despite others being hourly and getting paid? Is it because they were in a different department and their department managers weren’t ogres who didn’t authorize the paid hours even though they were released early? This is batsh*t and extra because when you single one person out like that, it’s upping to harassment levels. You can’t just decide one person on staff isn’t worthy of perks that every other single person is.

        Was it perhaps because you weren’t there long enough? I can see this only happening when you first started and aren’t passed your probationary period. I’ve known cheapskates who wouldn’t allow brand new employees [less than 90 days] to be paid out like that but again, those places stunk and I didn’t stick around long enough to see what else they were doing that was shady and corner cutting at the expense of workers who just want to do their job and get paid so they can live.

        1. Anony*

          This went on for years, until I stopped sending her my timecard to pre-approve and just sent it straight to payroll. Payroll was not pleased with her shenanigans, alerted her boss, who told her to knock it off. So instead she requires people to come in early to make up their time in order to leave early on those days…

      2. pope suburban*

        Ugh, my last boss was like this too. He played favorites between shop/field employees and office employees when it came to perks in general (It was plain old sexism in that case), and he seemed to delight in putting me in positions like the one you describe. I wasn’t paid enough to lose out on even two hours’ pay, so I spent a lot of time around holidays alone, doing nothing because I was always current on my work and no one was calling in for anything. One time, the transformer that powered our building blew, and the electrical company said it’d be the rest of the work day before it would be working again. My boss still seriously tried to make me stay, when I could do literally nothing at all in the dark without a computer or phone, when everyone else was excused for the day. His reasoning? What if a delivery person comes by? Which didn’t happen that often, and which was in no way crucial to the company, and which the delivery people were notoriously bad at doing most of the time anyway (Lots of “we tried but no one was there” when we were, in fact, there). That time I stuck to my guns, because it would have been an absolute waste for me to sit in a dark building alone until 5:00. But yeah, that kind of thing was par for the course there, and I’m dismayed to hear that that particular jerk is not alone in his management style.

        1. Becky*

          I mean, wouldn’t phones and power out also be a safety hazard and a security issue? Especially if you either didn’t have a cell phone or were out of battery on your cell.

          1. pope suburban*

            One would think, wouldn’t one? I would have had to spend the whole day using my personal cell and data to keep busy, as we had no battery-powered light sources and the building was sufficiently dark that even trying to do filing without a lantern would have been impossible. It was such an absolute waste of time, and even though I was well aware by this time what a clueless clod the boss was, even I was a little surprised that he’d try to force the issue. Though the number of times I had to lock up the building (Without having a set of keys), with only my phone for a flashlight, often after it was dark outside really made it clear that safety was…not a priority to him.

            1. Kvothe*

              Maybe it doesn’t apply to your area but where I’m from it’s illegal to keep the employees in the building once the emergency lights shut off! So during power outages we would all hang out around the reception area (there were couches) to see if the power would be coming back on shortly but once the emergency lights went kaput we were excused for the rest of the day.

        1. Anony*

          The saddest part, she was actually quite a nice person and I generally enjoyed working for her. She was just a stickler for Following Protocol that her common sense would go out the window in situations like this.

      3. Happy Lurker*

        Former receptionist here and that happened at BOTH of my receptionist jobs. After 3 years of working Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve until 5:30, I found a different job. I was told that they wanted to phones manned until closing time…even though I was the only one around to talk to.

        1. Anony*

          That boss was a lovely person in most ways, just very…literal…when it came to things like what “hourly” meant. Even though the office was not open and the phones were shut off for the holiday, she couldn’t comprehend that hourly didn’t mean I couldn’t get paid unless my butt was in the seat. It’s not as though I could have theoretically answered incoming calls; there was literally nothing to do.

          It wasn’t a case of favoritism, as any and all people she supervised before my time and up to the present day have all been subject to the same inane rules. She was generous about approving time off, but acted like we were all teenagers in our first job. This was a large, multi-national, professional, white-collar office.

  14. Mirve*

    My grandboss sends an email to those under her a day or two in advance, saying to end your work day 3 hours early. This allows for varying work schedules rather than having a set end of the day. Since we can also work from home, it also allows people to decide to work from home that day for the short day if the commute/work hours ratio makes better sense that way.

    1. GMN*

      This makes so much sense and I wish my office would do it this way, because we have flex hours. So some people’s end time is 4pm, but some leave at 6pm. So If we get an email saying we can leave at 3, the people who would have had to say till 6 are getting a much nicer perk than those who leave at 4 (like me).

      1. Becky*

        My company always phrases is as 2 hours early out and then gives the example of “if you normally leave at 5, you can leave at 3.” Always included is a caveat that it is up to manager/department approval (not sure how it works with our client services department). My department or manager has never indicated we needed to stay.

  15. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

    My current employer goes with a lose-lose situation. They let us out early *sometimes* and never consistently. They also dither around on the day-of so everyone gets to play a will-they or won’t-they game. It’s really not great for morale. E.g. Christmas Eve was a “surprise” early dismissal two years ago, but not last year, and things were awkward as heck. Pretty sure that if there’s another “surprise” dismissal this year (meaning, an email goes around at 2PM on the day of), everyone will have already spent 2/3 of a workday remembering how much last year sucked and feeling not jolly. IMO, if our Powers That Be would just announce the schedule ahead of time, it would cut out a bunch of the angst.

  16. ZS*

    My old job used to do this. Management would ask the hourly staff the week of to work extra hours so they can be let go early on X day before the holiday. They didn’t ask the salary staff to do anything different, so it always rubbed us the wrong way. Thankfully we had an employee task force that helped force this change, as salary staff had no idea it was a thing!

  17. Cinna214*

    Leaving early before a holiday is written into our holiday calendar! We love it- especially since those days the afternoon traffic is even worse than usual. New employees are always pleasantly surprised. If certain employees aren’t able to take that time, they flex it to another day as floating holiday time. If you take PTO that day, you are reminded to request 5 hours instead of 8, so you don’t burn PTO unnecessarily.

    It always still feels like a treat.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      That’s a good way to boost morale! My current employer doesn’t do this kind of thing, but they’re also extraordinarily flexible about how you organize your time, so leaving early is still very common on those days without necessarily needing to take PTO (just by staying a little later on other days).

    2. Ashley*

      Same with my company! Christmas Eve and New Years Eve are officially half days. If we request the days as vacation, we only need to request a half day’s vacation. It’s really nice. Being in the office those days is usually really fun, too. Not much work gets done, and they have treats/food for staff.

    3. Hepzibah Pflurge*

      I worked for a company that did this as well. It was in the employee handbook that the business day prior to a holiday you were able to leave 2 hours early (3 if you worked through lunch), of course depending on whether your work had been completed.

      They ALSO had a cool benefit in the months that don’t include a paid holiday (April, June, August, October) in which they chose a Friday in each of those months and closed the office at noon. Everyone got paid for the whole day.

      The company was a shitshow circus in just about every other way, but those were awesome perks.

  18. Meldusa*

    Our office used to do this when everyone was salaried, but a few years ago when federal law shifted, we now have some salaried and some non-nonsalaried employees who keep hours. It really, really sucked to lose the “Hey, it’s 3pm before a holiday thanks everyone for your hard work, head out a little bit early today!” perk–management just couldn’t make it fair for people who had to keep hours vs salaried.

    The new system is that if you want to leave early that you can juggle your hours during the week to do so, but it just sucks / doesn’t feel the same.

    Double-whammy: for years my department did this and my husband’s didn’t (we work at the same company), but now HIS department does and mine doesn’t.

    1. Spartan*

      You CAN just pay the hourly people for 2 hours they aren’t officially there just like you can salaried. You can’t NOT pay them for time actually worked but you can always have rules that do pay them for holidays or office closings even if they are hourly. I used to do this for on call work. If you had to work off the clock you got paid for an hour no matter how much time you spent under an hour. Over an hour you get paid more. It’s the same principle.

      1. Meldusa*

        Oh they could, but they won’t. They decided that doing that would amount to ‘time sheet falsification.’

        My company is largely sales people and the policies are set to be stingy to keep them out and selling; they’re also reluctant to set what would be considered “normal” office policies for us support workers because they don’t want to be accused of having double-standards. My specific department is also a subset of HR and so is very by-the-book.

        What you said makes total sense, I just don’t see it happening here :(

        1. nonymous*

          Back when I used to get this perk it would be documented a separate code. So 6 hours “regular hours”, with in/out documented and 2 hours “Holiday/admin”.

    2. Penny*

      This hits on one of my huge work pet peeves — when salaried people (who are usually the people making decisions about these kinds of things) offer perks without even thinking about how it affects the hourly people. Sounds like this isn’t the case here, but I have worked at places where there is a mix of salary and hourly workers and everyone is told “we’re closing early” or “long lunch today to celebrate XYZ” or something, with no mention of how the hourly workers are supposed to account for that on their timecard, whether they will be paid, etc. It’s really stressful, and puts us in the position of having to ask, which never feels good. Most of the time the salaried people who had thought of this great surprise perk hadn’t even considered how this would affect people who have to fill out timecards with exact work hours to get paid for those hours.

  19. Miss Fisher*

    Where I am, we get asked in the morning about anything potentially causing delays in leaving early. Sometimes we cant go because we are just too busy, or it wouldn’t be fair if we left while another team was stuck with work. So truely there are times that management doesn’t get the okay until last minute.
    I did have one instance where I was set to leave, but got a call as I was packing up begging me to stay because they needed me to get something out asap. Management told me to go which was nice because they ended up not getting me what I needed to finish up until 7 that evening.
    I also had a manager once who didn’t let anyone on our team leave because 1 team member was complaining she was too busy to go. But she wouldn’t let anyone help her with her work so we all basically say there angry with her. This is of course the same co-worker who regularly gets the whole team riled up and then will email me crying that no one like her or wont talk to her.

  20. Just Announce it!*

    My office never does this but my husband’s does. They usually announce it a few days ahead of time. Like Tuesday for a Friday early close. They always announce it early because for them an early close usually also means a business causal day instead of business formal (and yes they are formal on all Fridays!). I appreciate the heads up as my husband doesn’t drive and I do. If we know he’s off early, sometimes I will take a couple of hours of leave and join him or we’ll have to plan a way for him to get home.

  21. p. zolanski*

    Our office sometimes closes at 3 on the Friday before holidays. But we have people who start at different times of day so the office closing at 3 is great for people who stroll in at 9:30 or 10 in the morning and really sucks for people who come to work at 7 or 7:30. No allowances are given for those who come in early.

    1. Orange You Glad*

      My company is like this so an early closing is just a “leave 3 hours early” policy so everyone is still working the same amount of hours.

    2. SpellingBee*

      Yeah, my old office used to be like this – I was one of the early folks (by choice), so my normal leaving time was 4. Taking off an hour early wasn’t nothing and I did appreciate it, but it wasn’t as nice as my coworker, who started at 10, getting off 4 hours early! Plus we had to stay until we were given the official okey-dokey to wrap it up.

  22. Puffy Grouse*

    I understand the rationale for waiting to announce it, but as someone who has to organize their tasks in order to be effective, it’s pretty annoying to be told abruptly that you have two or three hours less than you thought you did. I’ve had to stay after an early close on more than one occasion and wished I’d had the option to just count it toward my balance or something.

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      This too! There was at least one occasion where we were told we couldn’t leave early because my team had collaborative work to do and an EOD deadline. That was true, but if we’d had a few days notice that an early dismissal was even a possibility, we would have managed our time differently! The whole “surprise” thing just really doesn’t work in an office setting for anything other than baked goods, if you ask me.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Yeah I was frequently someone who was not able to leave early when this happened, and sometimes got stuck in a bind when I needed info from someone who had already walked out the door.

  23. Kimmybear*

    I’ve worked lots of places like that. Sometimes HR and leadership take the day off and forget to let everyone know they can go home. I do love my current office where our employee handbook clearly states which days are early release before a holiday so you aren’t wondering whether you can or can’t leave. There is even a timecode in our time keeping system for early release.

  24. Funbud*

    My company used to be like this. Sometimes they would vary the time “The office will be closing at 2:oo PM”then the next holiday it would be the office will be closing at 3:00 PM”. Occasionally, they seemed to forget about it altogether, then the next holiday along would come the email message dismissing us early.

    Now, with a newer CEO and new management in HR, it’s pretty much been regulated: we get the message telling us about the early dismissal the day before. But the downside now is that it’s always “closing at 3:00 PM”. Oh well, it’s still a nice perq.

  25. Malarkey01*

    I was on the management side of this and we were hopeful we could let people go at noon the day before Thanksgiving, but early that morning we had a project issue implode and we had to address it before the holiday. People lost their minds (and I’m sympathetic when you sort of plan on it based on past years). There were people who had made early flight reservations, plans to leave early to cook a big meal for out of town guests, etc. I tried to be sensitive to it, and told the people with travel plans that they could take leave for the afternoon and we’d make it work…but then those people were angry they had to take leave.

    We really couldn’t win, and I understand why it sucks, but after this experience we had to be very clear that everyone should absolutely expect to work the full day and make plans accordingly.

    1. Herding Butterflies*

      Your industry sounds like my industry. I was trying to explain this above. Your example works much better than mine.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, I’m kind of jealous of the people whose companies can theoretically plan this sort of thing. My last two places, you have a shipment or seven that need to go out by end of day, and you just can’t plan on everything running smoothly and the right truck showing up by 2:00. We tried to get a couple of volunteers to stay behind and let others go early in those situations (with the ability to take the same amount of time for free in the next couple of weeks), but that works a lot better if they had already been planning an 8 hour day.

    3. Mr. Shark*

      All the people complaining I think should be happy if there are times when you can leave early. Yes, it is the exception, not the rule (which is what caused issues with your office). You either have to schedule it and keep to that schedule, or you have to plan to work the whole day, and if you get off early, be happy about it.

      That said, hourly employees should get paid for the time they are getting off, not have it deducted from their pay. That’s ridiculous.

  26. Chocoholic*

    At a former employer, the “policy” was to close at noon the day before a holiday – so before Labor Day, the office would close at noon that Friday before.

    We had an employee who worked a schedule where she took off every other Friday. And she wanted to take her “half-holiday” on Thursday when she was off the Friday before a Monday holiday. People like this are what ruin a nice thing for everyone else.

    We had another situation where someone else was out of town on vacation and we had a snowstorm and the office closed for 3 days while she was on the beach in Florida or something, and she wanted her PTO refunded and take inclement weather time because we were closed. Sigh.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The way you game the system in that case, is you only get charged 4hrs for the Friday that week than the 8hrs usually for PTO. We have a perma 4hr Christmas Eve setup. So anyone who takes that day off is only taking half a day off, so it really helps them out in the terms of saving on PTO, which I’m 100% behind.

      However if someone was all “So I take Friday’s off, I want to take my holiday on Thursday instead.” I’d laugh because that’s never going to happen. It wouldn’t ruin it for others because it’s really easy to say “That’s not possible, I’m sorry.”

      If we do shut down and pay everyone, we’d refund PTO though. So there’s also that. I get why other companies don’t but in fairness and wanting to assist our employees every way we can, it’s in our best interest to just refund the PTO instead of digging in heels about things.

      1. Chocoholic*

        When people push back about wanting to change the day of holidays, and it gets back to TPTB, they can take it away for everyone. Not saying that is right, but just can happen. In our case, we got a new executive director who ended the practice and added in a different holiday as “compensation” or something. Its been a long time ago now.

        I think in general that company was extremely generous with time off in general, and so people wanting to game the system to get more made you feel like every time you wanted to something nice, someone was going to try and take advantage of it.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Anything “can” happen when you push back. If they’re that toxic and awful, you’re going to be punished regardless in the end. People who are unreasonable and tyrants will always be unreasonable and tyrants in the end.

          It’s not that we can’t have nice things. It’s that sometimes you don’t want any of those apples with their little green worms in them.

          I discourage anyone from walking on eggshells and acting like these are your parents who may take away your iPad if you upset them by talking back.

    2. Liz*

      And this is why many times, esp. if my PTO is getting low, I prefer not to take off the day before a holiday, just in case we get out early, since i feel like i’d miss out and ‘waste” a full day of PTO. since we normally get out at 2, so can’t even do 1/2 PTO day.

    3. Mr. Shark*

      Yes, those people ruin it for others in a lot of cases. I can see the argument for one person not getting the same benefit, but if you’re not there in person on that day, I don’t see how you can argue for it. It’s like if someone brought donuts–it’s a bonus thing, not an actual benefit.

  27. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Years ago while working for the federal govt (Canadian) the tradition was that the office shut down at noon on Christmas Eve. It was also the tradition that you could bring your kids in and it was basically a socializing day. One person in each department had to stay until close to answer phones etc. Ideally, people took turns staying until close, but it wasn’t always fairly assigned.

    1. Lizzy May*

      That is still the tradition as far as I can tell from my bus rides on Christmas Eve in Ottawa. Kids everywhere and the bus is always packed from 12-1 with parents and their kids going home.

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        I miss that about Ottawa, the express buses rolling early on Christmas Eve because they knew everyone wanted to get home.

    2. Liz*

      This is what my company does. and the room where the kids etc are adn stuff goes on is right on the other side of my cube. I have to work that day, so I’ve started working from home. This way i’m not disturbed, and i don’t get annoyed at those who saunter in for an hour or maybe two, with their kids, then leave. It also allows me to leave for my mom’s from home, which is closer, and avoid traffic.

    3. Plush Penguin*

      It still happens, too. Though a couple of years ago, my organization had a bit of a backfire. See, in 2017, Christmas fell on a Monday. Christmas Eve was a Sunday, so the last workday before Christmas was a Friday. Our higher-ups felt that, because that Friday wasn’t the “last day before Christmas,” there should be no Christmas Eve festivities, no Santa, no bringing the kids in, etc. So some of the Christmas activities got cancelled. There was PUSHBACK, which eventually resulted in reinstating the Santa and bringing in the kids.

      However, part of the festivities included going home at noon. That was still kiboshed. So, you ended up with people bringing in kids, having Santa, having potlucks… and still expected to put in a full day of work. What ended up happening was all the people who brought kids went home at noon (while grumbling about having to take a half day of vacation time), and everyone else sitting miserably at their desks, not getting work done.

      I later found out that other organizations got to go home early. We were just “special.” (We deal with revenue, so it’s not usually a good look for us to be seen carousing on “the taxpayer’s dime.”)

  28. TootsNYC*

    If they announce it, and put it on their holidays list, then they are essentially (and perhaps legally) making it part of your official compensation.

    But they don’t want it to be.

    1. Sparrow*

      HR at my last organization was very particular about closing early for this exact reason. They didn’t want it to become a Thing. The director of our unit would spring early dismissal on us at the very last minute so that the HR person wouldn’t have time to find out and put a stop to it. At some point he either decided he didn’t care about HR or they came to some sort of agreement, because he did eventually start giving us a heads up (at first only orally, though…)

  29. Yellow*

    My old office did this, and half the time it ended up having no effect on us, since most of us took public transportation (lived in the ‘burbs and our office was in center city), and all the good express trains only ran at certain times anyway, so why leave at 3:30 when it’ll take you an hour and a half to get home, when you can leave at 5, and be home in 35 minutes?
    I would usually end up getting home about 10 minutes early. Thanks, guys.

  30. lilsheba*

    I’d rather have that than the way my work does it, where you have to wait and see if voluntary time off is even offered, and if it is bidding for it only to have it declined a bunch of times.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      My relevant $OldJob was flexi but Christmas Eve was the only day you could ignore core hours (to leave before 4pm without using a half- or whole day of PTO).

  31. sparty07*

    I liked the way one of my managers worked 4th of July. We (an accounting/finance tea) had certain activities that had to be done at the end of WD 1, 2, 3. Whenever everyone in the team finished their combined tasks for that work day the team got to leave. The team worked together helping to cover ad-hoc requests to allow those with more duties on said day to focus on the WD requirements, etc. It was said ahead of time so we all knew what to expect that day.

    Current job, it’s not a given that things will close early and you can see the difference between those who expect an early release vs. those who accept it as a normal day. I like to stay in camp 2 and if you don’t expect it, when the email comes its nice, but if it doesn’t you had the mindset that you were going to be finishing the day as normal.

  32. PrgrmMgr*

    I used to work in an office that started doing this after bringing in a new COO. In the big picture, it was appreciated, but initially the roll-out was pretty frustrating. As an employee who meets with clients in the office, there were quick calculations as to if any afternoon appointments were ones I should keep or frantically calling people to reschedule.

    My current employer seems to have been scaling back on the early release days, but they’re written onto the calendar, so that’s great for planning.

  33. BrainWire*

    My old office used to let us out at 3:00 before Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I was scheduled to leave at 4:00, and other people were scheduled to leave at 5:00 or 6:00, so everyone got different amounts of “extra” time off. I wish they’d said “you can leave 3 hours early” instead. Felt sucky that everyone else was getting double or triple the amount of extra time off, and one hour didn’t feel like much.

  34. Retired Lady*

    I worked in an office where most people were salaried, but a few of us were hourly. If we were told we could leave early it usually meant hourly people didn’t get paid for the full day. Luckily my boss let me work extra hours earlier in the week so by Friday I had my full hours in by 1 or 2 pm and I was able to leave early whether or not they announced an early out.

  35. Lizzy May*

    My office has started to do this before holiday weekends and they typically give us a decent amount of warning. Normally we get an email around 9am or so saying that we’re free to leave at 3pm if our work is complete. So then, we all hustle like Cinderella before the ball and remind our partners that we’re leaving early so please don’t wait on urgent work and it mostly works out. One time I had to stay a bit late because of a client call and that couldn’t be helped. I guess I come down on give people notice so they can organize their day and when it makes sense trust your staff to manage their workload.

    1. Jamie*

      I hate the “if your work is complete” phrasing. My work is such it’s never complete in that I have various projects in various stages at all times. My work load is very manageable at this employer, but if I waited for complete I’d never go home.

      I over think things. So when this is said to me I interpret complete as no current fires raging and everything on track at a clean breaking point.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I do indeed think “if your work is complete” means how you are interpreting, I think most jobs the “work is never complete” as in there is always something else you can work on. But it just means as long as there is nothing due today, or it has been sent out you can go.

  36. ThatGirl*

    Thankfully, last year it was announced here that we’d be officially getting out early on weekdays before a holiday, they sent out a list and everything. We also have summer Fridays written into the employee handbook. Alison is right, of course, but it is also annoying if you are sure you’re going to get out early but you have to wait for the official word.

    The one tiny thing I’m gonna miss from my customer service days is that occasionally, the VP would come down and say “y’all can go home an hour before everyone else, just don’t make a big thing of it” and we would flee.

  37. in a fog*

    Heh. About 10 years ago, I was working at a place that would usually send out an email like that on the day before Thanksgiving. Given that I had to drive 6+ hours after work to get to my parents’ house, I really counted on those extra two or three hours to get on the road before the traffic got too terrible — and so I wouldn’t be arriving after midnight.

    And then, one year, the email never came. I was carpooling with a friend and she showed up at 3, so I just…left. It did not go unnoticed, and I got a talking-to after the holiday weekend. Given how much that place micromanaged our time, I did not feel bad about it AT ALL. But I did learn my lesson.

  38. Liz*

    My current job is the ONLY one, in 30+ years of working that has ever consistently let us out early before every major holiday. Which really is just the three summer holidays and thanksgiving, since the last day before Christmas, whether it be the 24th or not, we have half a day. And this is only in the last 6-7 years. And our president, up until this year, would send around an email a few days ahead of time, letting us know we were closing early. But the last year or so he’s waited until the day of, which is kind of even more annoying since before we knew ahead of time, but now we all sit and are antsy! And what irks me is he always says its so we can “get an early start’ well no, not really since we never KNOW for sure now until mid morning of that day if we are closing early or not.

    Prior to him, our old president could have cared less about anyone but himself, so IF your manager told you to go, you could, but not all did.

    At my first job, it was also up to your manager, and mine would rarely let me go early. We worked in NYC, and she took the train from one station home to NY, and me the bus, home to NJ. One memorable holiday she left a good hour and a half early, and told ME I could leave 15 minutes early, in other words, wait another hour and go. I noped it out of there 5 minutes after she did. I really hated that. either do it, or don’t, but don’t let each manager decide because there will always be some that think its great, and some that think no way, you work all day, holiday or not.

  39. Roscoe*

    My last company was notorious for this. The problem was, for a long time it was automatic. Right before a long weekend, we got out at 2, and we’d plan around that, even if we knew they wouldn’t announce it until around noon or something. Then they went through a rapid growth phase, and it became a lot less predictable. That led to a lot of unahppiness

  40. Old Cynic*

    I remember one Scrooge of a boss. Department managers were responsible for letting people go early. Our department of 15 were the only ones who worked until 5 on Christmas Eve. The other 500+ employees were let go at 1. Our boss just believed in the ethics of working.

    1. Jay*

      I hate this, this is my experience at my current job, everyone else in the firm who works for a different supervisor gets to leave early before holidays and I am in my chair until 5pm because my boss believes in work!

  41. Spreadsheets and Books*

    This kind of thing is at manager discretion at my office and no one pays attention or tracks anything. This year, the VP of our group decided that no one was working the Friday after the 4th of July, just because, without using vacation time or PTO. We just didn’t show up. Same with leaving early, whether before a holiday or just because it’s a quiet Friday or something. Having it be company-wide seems odd to me.

    But salaried workers don’t track vacation here at all. Days off are on an honor system.

  42. Mill Miker*

    I used to work at a place that would announce at 3pm on the last business day before Christmas whether or not they were going to close the office for the entire week between Christmas and New Years.

    They apparently always did, but they absolutely refused to commit either way before then. Many of the people I worked with were sure that if you actually planned for having the week off, and they found out, they would have stayed open since we were being ungrateful and not really appreciating the gift.

    We were required to use vacation time for the closure, or take it unpaid.

    1. Color-coding snowflake*

      My office announces around October whether or not we’re going to close for that week. We don’t have to use vacation time or take it unpaid–BUT all our vacation time disappears January 1st, no rollover whatsoever (not even “can I take January 2nd with this year’s vacation time?”) so most people hoard a week of vacation time in case they need it and then there’s a rush of everyone trying to use it in October/November/December. Which is not an un-busy time in most of our departments!

      In the time I’ve been here, there was one year where we were open two days in between, with maybe 1/5th of the office working. The other years I’ve consistently had at least a day or two of vacation time disappear on me.

  43. Tata*

    I have to make this decision for my office. Most of us are salary but a few are not. We have a number of people who will request a full day off and we do what we can to honor those requests. What that means is I have limited staff and I won’t know until late morning or around lunch time if I can send most people home early. My office has to factor in tasks and call volume for all including people who are on vacation. It’s a balancing act.

  44. Alex*

    Yep this is how my office operates as well.

    One kind of irritating thing is that not everyone works the same hours. So when they say “we’re closing at 3pm everyone!” that is the regular going-home time for some people. And for others, they’ve only been there 3-4 hours. This is NOT a result of shift work, but rather, flexible working hours.

  45. MistOrMister*

    My office usually announces the day in advance if we’re getting off early before a holiday. I prefer it that way rather than having to wait and see because it allows me to make sure I get everything I need done in time. I would not be thrilled to think I’d be there until 5 and get let off at 2 and still have a stack of work so now I have to hang around rushing while other people get to leave.

    I’m not reallt sure why people at OPs office are getting mad. I would say just work likw you expect to get off early. That way if you do get out early you’re set to lwave and if you don’t, then you have a nice leisurely afternoon because you’ve already done the bulk of your work.

  46. Dame Judi Brunch*

    My old company did this! The department managers were responsible for letting their staff go. For example, the CEO would announce to the managers that we be allowed to leave at 3 on Christmas Eve instead of 5.
    However my manager was very much a “it’s a work day why aren’t you working?” type. We would always be the last to leave.
    Not everyone could take the day off. Since we were open there had to be coverage. But we are an industry where it made no sense to be open until 5 on a major holiday eve. We would just sit there. It was just annoying and demoralizing.

  47. Fiona*

    In my old job, I remember everyone gathering in the main common area as they wheeled out a big screen TV, which was broadcasting a live announcement from our CEO, who was (you guessed it) in the Hamptons. It was a big announcement that we would get to leave early or take an extra day for the holiday or something. Joy commenced – except for me, since I had to work the holiday weekend for a project. It was such a bummer.

    But as far as the OP goes, I think you just have to pretend it’s NOT a thing, force yourself in your mind to assume you will be working the whole day, and then allow yourself to be “surprised.” That’s what I do and it generally works.

  48. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    My $OldJob was good at this, so on Christmas Eve it was common practice for the office to empty at midday for a pub lunch, then people dropped back in at 2pm to check nothing urgent had landed, and headed off home. Very civilised and very predictable for anyone below the top level of management, who took it in turns each year to stay until 5pm ish just in case.

    But one particular Christmas Eve at 2pm I decided I’d quickly send out a few final e-mails before leaving, because of the timing of the trains home.

    Big mistake. Huge.

    At about 2.30pm one of the senior partners arrived at my desk somewhat breathless. “Thank goodness someone’s still here. We’ve had urgent instructions from the States and we need to get an application on file today.”

    So I spent my entire afternoon preparing and filing an obscure type of application with two frazzled partners, trying to get the last crucial pieces of required information from the US client and finally hitting submit and receiving confirmation some time after 6pm. Several trains had come and gone without me. I finally got home after 8pm, exhausted and very annoyed. Happy holidays!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Mind you, that was still a bazillion times better than any holiday-eve day worked in retail. Christmas Eve, Holy Saturday, day before Mothers Day, etc. Hideous.

  49. wickedtongue*

    We get let out at 1 PM the day before the holiday (or the holiday weekend), but fortunately they send out an email a week in advance, giving people enough time to adjust their schedules.

  50. i forget the name I usually use*

    Coming from a company that did NOT do this ever, to a company that does it sporadically, I love it when it happens. (usually at 3 PM the day before a holiday, we get paid for regular hours.) I guess I can anticipate becoming super-jaded about early dismissal and free money in a few years! lol

  51. Jay*

    I think one of the reasons employers wait until the day of to say anything is because the perk might apply to some people and not others, which I have experienced a lot and it’s terrible.

    My current firm is small and I am my supervisor’s only direct report. The Friday before labor day literally all of my coworkers (at the same level as me, but who report to a different supervisor) left early, they were all gone by noon, the other supervisor rolled out at 3pm. I however, stayed in the office until 5 pm, just me and my supervisor. It’s not a deadlines or work load issue, my supervisor is just a butts in seats person. It’s demoralizing and frustrating and I wish my office made the same accommodations for everyone.

    1. Dame Judi Brunch*

      My manager was also a butts in seats person. We were always the last department to be allowed to leave.
      One year the head of IT came around and asked why we were still there, he can’t leave until we do and he wanted to go home. He was the holiday hero that year!

  52. Allison*

    I would be pretty annoyed if I didn’t know until that actual day if we were gonna get to leave early. If it’s before a holiday, there’s probably something I need to do – an errand to run or some food to prep, maybe some packing I could be doing, and I like to plan that stuff out in advance. My office, thankfully, will let us know the week before if the office will be closing early (and it almost always is). I would not want it to be a surprise, but I’d plan my work day as though it’s going to end at 2, and if I’m still there at 2, I’ll treat it as though I need to work a bit late and keep working, or if my workload is light, I might just peace out at 3 or 4, checking with my manager to make sure she doesn’t need anything else from me before I do so.

  53. Name changed to protect the guilty*

    In our office we don’t pre-announce it for two reasons:

    1. We’re constantly adjusting the “how early” meter according to how much work is coming in.

    2. It’s against the rules for all hourly people, and because of that it’s technically against the rules in every office that’s not 100% salary. That applies even if the hourly folks are in a completely different department. So we can’t announce it. I have had to cancel the perk because of one person who doesn’t know how to be subtle.

    1. Teapot project manager*

      You mean if you close early it doesn’t apply to hourly people? What/whose rules is it against? My company does early release and pays hourly employees for a full day.

      1. Name changed to protect the guilty*

        As I understand it, those rules come from the executive suite. Since nobody in our department is hourly and I’m not even “management”, I don’t know the specifics.

        Rumor has it that the last time there was an hourly person in our department, they and the rest of the department would leave early the day before a holiday. It was just done even more quietly.

  54. Liberry Pie*

    I think they do this so you will still come in that day. If they told you in advance you had Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving off, how many people would just ask to use PTO for the morning and not come in? More than the number who take when they think it’s a regular day of work. Even the possibility (but not certainty) of getting out at two doesn’t make a person say “Might as well take the whole day” the same way that advance notice would.

  55. Teapot project manager*

    Years ago, the “office closing early before a holiday” decision was made at the local office level. My local office would normally close at 1pm on Christmas Eve but wouldn’t annovine it until that day. Obviously that decision was not being made by someone responsible for cooking any dinner that day or otherwise responsible for holiday planning. Heck, I was single with no kids so my plans usually were just around church and my parents and I found it incredibly annoying, can’t imagine trying to plan that with kids.

    Many years later, after acquisitions and splits so we are not even remotely the same company anymore, our holiday schedule for years now has spelled out specifically that offices close at 1pm the day before holidays.

    The only glitch was a couple of years ago when they forgot to put New Years Eve on the early release, an oversight since the actual holiday was in the next year. No one realized it until the end towards of December. A middle manager went to HR to try to get them to send out a company wide update, but the only one working in HR that week was a low level employee who was very much “this is what it says, everyone works all day the 31st”. All the higher ups were on vacation.

    Cause yeah, a company that lets you off at 1pm the day before Memorial Day isn’t going to do same New Years Eve, eyeroll.

    I think I took the whole day off, believe our manager told everyone (all salaried), just keep an eye in email in the afternoon in case something actually comes up

  56. Lady Blerd*

    My job does this but because it depends on the boss and you never know when the policy will change, I try not to assume that we’ll get it. I once had an immediate boss who would put caveats and exceptions when the grand boss would let us go early, his boss used to go around himself to spread the news to the crew to bypass him.

  57. Heffalump*

    It would make sense to say, “We’ll close at X time if Y happens” and then give updates, if possible, during the day.

  58. HailRobonia*

    One year my Department Head told my boss we were closing at 2:00 on the Friday before Labor Day. Instead of relaying this vital piece of information to the rest of us, she just vanished.

  59. kspence1025*

    I’m not trying to be rude or argumentative, and thats not a prequel to being just that. I’ve genuinely never understood the “annoyance” at being told you can leave early, if you want to. Holiday or not, that little time off always felt like playing hooky to me and I loved it <3

    1. The Grammarian*

      I also love it. I always enjoy being (unexpectedly) able to take a nap, go shopping, or whatever midday.

  60. stitchinthyme*

    I always just viewed it as a treat, and didn’t expect it. If/when the boss came by to tell us we could leave, awesome! I’d be out of there. But if not, I wasn’t disappointed.

    Last time I had a job that did this was more than 10 years ago, so if your job does this, be grateful and stop whining about how they go about it.

  61. YetAnotherFed*

    My agency will do early dismissal (which is basically 2 hours of administrative leave, we have people starting work anytime from 6 am to noon; the computer help desk and the gym will shut down early but they have fixed times for their end of day). My spouse works at a different federal agency with field offices and fixed time for the end of the day (as in if you work past that time you need to be authorized for overtime to be in the building or teleworking) so they never, ever get early dismissal. I just wish that they would announce it at the beginning of the week so it would be easier to make plans, instead of an email announcement the day/evening before or the day of.

  62. Only Semi-stealth*

    This happens at my workplace because the staff is unionized and hourly, but they get paid for the full day. So we don’t put it in writing and we call it a “game-time decision at the manager’s discretion.” That way our HQ wouldn’t have to take responsibility for it as a policy decision, and the union can’t claim it’s a benefit, on the rare occasion when we do need someone to stay to finish something urgent/emergent.
    Staff knows not to schedule any key meetings during that time, and they know that sometime between 2 and 4, they’ll be told they can leave (not in writing).

  63. Mike*

    Our work does this. The only thing I do differently is that I’ll rearrange the meeting schedule to move the end of day meetings to earlier in the day. Then I just keep working until the notice comes. What I DON’T do is plan on being let out early.

  64. Thornus*

    I’ve worked office jobs before where I wouldn’t even necessarily know if we were closed for the holiday. Sometimes, the owners wouldn’t even let us know if we were closed for Memorial Day, the 4th, or Labor Day. And we were a law office, so all of the courthouses and agencies and clients were already closed for it.

  65. Jesshereforthecomments*

    My office lets us out early on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, but it’s not a policy and it can change. One year it was 2:00 pm each time and then it changed to 3:00 pm the next year.

    What they do well (I think) is tell us early in December so we can plan ahead. It’s still a treat, because it’s not guaranteed and we’re happy to get that email each year, but we’re also not irritated but the “treat”.

    It seems like barring any operational issues, like Allison mentioned, there should be a compromise.

  66. Linzava*

    My personal experience and opinion:

    I had a toxic job that did this, one of my managers would occasionally play games with it, but overall, it wasn’t fun to wonder if we were going to be released or if we were gonna sit with nothing to do for half a day.

    My current job has only let me out early twice in 2 years, but I don’t mind at all. I genuinely enjoy my job and only work 6 hour days.

    My conclusion, it really depends on your job’s culture and if you’re happy. If you have a toxic boss, even the good things come with a catch and if you have a great boss, these early work days do feel like a cherry on top of an awesome cake, whether they give you notice or not.

  67. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Even more frustrating in my office… The bosses always wait until 2:00PM or later to announce that we’ll be excused for an hour (or sometimes two), so those who start at 6:00AM can never benefit from it. If they wait until 3:00PM, then the 7:00AM starts don’t benefit either.

  68. Formerly Known As*

    This happens at my current job and one of my past jobs. In both instances, the official closing time by the employer is, for example, 3 p.m. the day before certain holidays. But at my current job, our department is often allowed to leave before the official company closing time, anywhere between 1-2 p.m. We’re told verbally (no more than 24 hours in advance) and the understanding is that you don’t blab to anyone at corporate headquarters, which located in another state. It’s not every holiday, and the extra time off varies. It has to be granted by a vice president. It was the same way at a past job I had in the mid-2000s.

  69. Blue Horizon*

    I usually stay until the office is empty or nearly so, then go. Sometimes the last few will have an impromptu drinks gathering before they leave, which I quite like.

  70. Federal Blue Collar*

    Could be worse. I used to work 3rd shift (11:30p to 8am) and the day before every major holiday, management made it MANDATORY that all shifts starting after 7pm had to begin at 7pm and everyone “got” to leave at 3:30am. This was considered by management as a ‘favor” And I guess for the folks who started at 8 or 9:30, it wasn’t that big an imposition. But if you started at 11:30, coming in 4 hours early meant losing the entire work day prior to a big holiday and then getting home at 3:30am and trying to get some sleep before all the festivities began.

    If you were hosting (or bringing significant offers to a family potluck), you had to have your prep done 2 days early. Or spend 3:30am until when ever cooking whatever you couldn’t do the day before. And hey, you didn’t need any sleep on a major holiday, right?

    Changing people’s work schedules in intransigent ways is an idea that really need to head off with the dinosaurs, as should doing it “spontaneously” the day of.

  71. Parfait*

    I used to have a manager who liked to randomly tell people to take off a little early – half an hour or 45 minutes here and there. He never did get the idea that because I took a bus that only came once an hour, being able to leave that little bit early did me exactly no good. No matter how many times I said, “Thanks but I’ll just stay as my bus doesn’t come til 5:07.”

  72. KatyO*

    We do this in our office but we split the team in half and rotate holidays. The schedule is published for the year so everyone knows what days they get to leave early. Since we can’t actually shut down our office, this is the next best solution.

  73. Adorajar*

    Our company gave us 2 extra days off for Christmas, which was awesome except I had saved PTO days for the holiday that couldn’t be rolled into the next year. I could have used those earlier in the year when I was sick but pushed through.

  74. Corporate Goth*

    Fed here. We can do the 59 minute rule like the state govvies mentioned in previous comments.

    Sometimes people will walk around and tell employees to leave early and not come back. They’re typically high ranking and usually clueless that they’re not allowed to do that. Drives the supervisors nuts because we have to fix their mess. All people see then is immediate boss nixing their fun, not protecting them from getting in trouble. Thanks, guys! It’s great for morale. Really.

    This also makes end of year planning for use or lose leave much more difficult. I think they’ve taken to announcing half or full days ahead of time (rumor mill is fogging my memory), but I’m usually burning my own leave by then. I’m also responsible for making sure my employees don’t have to give any time back. A good problem to have, to be sure, but still a problem. We try to warn people a few weeks out to plan for flexibility, avoid carpooling, etc.

    We have flex time and I’m in at 6AM, so it’s always wasted on me. Can’t remember the last time I got the message about early dismissal in time to leave early.

  75. Bowserkitty*

    We used to have times like this at my previous job! Working for a small, non-customer-facing business really has its perks. We’d even get let out early (with pay!) if the weather was unusually nice and things were slow/caught up. But yes, we absolutely had moments like “WHY ARE WE STILL HERE!!!!” as embarrassing as that is to admit.

  76. londonedit*

    I used to work for a small company where probably at least two Fridays a month, the boss would say ‘Hey, let’s all pack up at 4 today’, and probably about 70% of the time on the Friday before a bank holiday he’d say ‘It’s a holiday weekend! Let’s all leave at lunchtime!’ He absolutely wanted it to be a ‘Surprise! Let’s all pack up early!’ treat, but people started to get a bit annoyed about it for various reasons, mainly because it meant you could never plan anything. A lot of the time people might have booked train tickets for say 6pm because they were going away for the long weekend, and if we were then let out at 1pm they’d have a whole afternoon of hanging around (in the UK train tickets can be very expensive if you don’t book a ticket for a specific train, and if you don’t book well in advance, so most of the time it’s not like you can just rock up to the station whenever you want).

    In the end, we had a quiet word with him and said that although we really appreciated the sentiment, it actually was backfiring some of the time and was often less of a ‘Yay! Free afternoon!’ and more of a ‘FFS, if I’d known we were leaving at lunchtime I could’ve got a cheaper train ticket’. To his credit, he then made it an unofficial rule that we could leave at 4pm every Friday, and at lunchtime on every Friday before a long weekend, so it worked out well.

  77. Lemimi*

    We had the same thing at my old company, but the CEO used to leave earlier. He was the owner so it was annoying but expected, except the last year I was there he tried to leave at 12pm and told us we all had to stay until 3pm. Only problem being he was the only one in the office with keys, so rather than let us all go at 12pm he stayed to make us all stay until 3pm.

    The kicker was the fact that he started a competition on the pool table and was fully aware of the fact no work was being done by anyone, but we ABSOLUTELY HAD to stay in the office until 3pm. Massive eyeroll.

  78. Rose*

    I’m kind of amazed at all the complaining about being let out early or not on a timeline you prefer. It seems rather entitled, frankly. I work for the government and we only get out of work early if we take it as pto. Full stop. Why not just assume you will be working the whole day and if that changes, that’s the bonus plan?

  79. Kate H*

    My office is very much the second one. We don’t even get an email; our VP likes to go around to every department personally and tell us we can go home early. The last time it happened (after almost a year of not being allowed to leave early, to the point where we assumed it was never going to happen again), my wife in another department was in a meeting outside. It ran for an hour and then there was another hour of wrap-up tasks to be completed (all things that could’ve been done in time for them to leave early if there’d been any real warning).

  80. West*

    OP2, please do not use your time off to get work done. I have been a healthy, active person who never uses my sick leave for over 10 years. But in June I was very unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer at 31. Between the doctor visits, MRIs, biopsies, mastectomy, and chemo starting this week, I have used more than 3 years worth of sick leave for something I never, ever would have thought to expect. Do no waste it to get work done. This is a practical office problem that needs to be addressed, but you should not use your hard-earned time off to do work. I hope you can come up with a better solution soon. Good luck!

  81. Interviewer*

    My company did the same thing as OP, until we opened a couple of offices overseas which were 6-12 hours ahead of us. On the holidays we shared with them from the US, they never got to take advantage of the 11th hour surprise early closures, because upper management couldn’t be bothered to remember the time difference. It eventually created morale issues and many of the problems OP mentioned.

    I discussed it with HR, who discussed it with upper management, and now everyone gets 2-3 days notice of early departures prior to holidays or long weekends. Staff don’t worry about when/if the announcement is coming, managers can map out the workload on a short day, and international staff can finally take advantage of the extra time off.

  82. boop the first*

    Hmm yeah, at my last job, we usually had holidays off and it was the first job I had with that particular perk. It was also the first job where I didn’t have posted schedules or anything like that, so I kept myself in the mindframe of previous jobs. So when coworkers would talk about upcoming days off, I would say “hmm I don’t know, we’ll have to see…” and it annoyed them, lol. Some extra long holiday weekends, we had to work one of the days, and it was nicer to play surprised/delighted instead of disappointed.

    Same thing goes for “can you stay longer?”. If you ask me to stay late when I come in, I will oblige. If you wait until I’m 5 minutes away from freedom, I’m going to panic and fight it. You just don’t let people get excited about something good before you try to suck it away. Just don’t.

  83. aett*

    My office typically does this before major holidays, right down to not telling us we’re released until it happens. The amount of time that we get off has varied from boss to boss: there was a period of time in which we would be released around 2 PM, which was great, and then for a while we had a boss who would wait until 4 PM. The biggest problem that we had with the latter was that everyone in my office has different start and end times, and there were a few of us who would start at 7 and leave at 4 (and others who would start at 7:30 and only take a 3o minute lunch to leave at 4), so it felt like a slap in the face when my manager told me I could leave while I was already packing up my things.

    Our current management, however, consists mostly of people who have promoted up from this office, so they know how things work around here. As such, they will tell the folks who start earlier that they can leave earlier so everyone is happy.

  84. nora*

    At my last job the policy was, essentially, the CEO would “gift” us extra time off on Good Friday or whatever and everyone had to thank her for it either in person or in writing or she’d get mad and threaten not to do it again. That was literally how it was phrased in emails announcing the time off. “What a lovely gift! Everyone remember to thank Soandso for the afternoon off!” The problem was it is a heavily client-oriented agency and unannounced early closures left the staff scrambling to cancel appointments on no notice.

    This was also an agency where staff weren’t allowed to incur overtime, so there was a lot of flex scheduling. Flex time could only be used during the week it was accrued. There was a major event the weekend before Thanksgiving last year so a lot of staff needed to use their flex time in the three days before the holiday, Black Friday being a day off in the employee handbook. This apparently sent the CEO off the rails and henceforth Black Friday is no longer a holiday ever again. I don’t go in for power plays like that so I left and since then have been watching the agency slowly disintegrate thanks to the CEO’s “leadership.”

  85. KC*

    I worked at a place where they would give advanced notice of a few days before the early closing, but included an obligatory based on business needs type condition. Waiting until the last minute just seems like bad planning.

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