How Long Do I Really Have to Stay at Work on the Wednesday Before Thanksgiving?

And other questions you’d rather not ask your own HR Department.


Most of us work more than we live, which is to say we spend considerably more time at the office and with our coworkers than we do with the human beings we actually want in our lives. It also means that the stressors and anxieties of work become a significant part of who we are—and can be a real drag even when we’re not at the office. We don’t want all that stress to get to you, though—or worse, kill you. That’s why we’ve enlisted Terry Petracca, the hippest HR expert we know, to help solve all your work-related woes.

How long do I really have to be in the office on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving? It seems like it’s kinda acceptable to leave any time you like (“I have a flight to catch!”) so long as you actually show your face in the morning, but is that right? Will my manager hold it against me? As an addendum to this, just how far back can the four-day holiday stretch? Will a full Wednesday off eventually just become a given?—Jerry C., Dallas, TX

This is how rumors get started:

“It turns out that it’s a myth that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year; summer weekends win that distinction.”

So don’t assume everyone is traveling somewhere in a hurry. It turns out the majority of folks drive on Thanksgiving Day and it’s a much smaller group flying or leaving early for longer drives.

For some businesses, you can’t leave early at all: If you’re in retail, banking, hospital, hospitality, or numerous other businesses that need folks in the office to service others, you’re expected to work the day or your shift. Usually those organizations will survey who really needs to leave early and try to accommodate requests, but it may be that everyone has to put in a full day. In companies that are pretty laissez faire about employee start times and work from home, the office may be empty by noon. Often I’ve seen the locals (those not hopping on planes) stay until the end of the day in order to help others out.

The polite and appropriate approach is to ask your manager what typical practice is for your department, not just the company. Usually this is discussed in advance within the department so that coverage is assured. Unless the company is shutting down – which would be announced – a core group of employees will be in the office until end of day. You will look like an idiot if you breeze in and out while your colleagues are working.

I don’t think it’s likely that the Thanksgiving holiday will ever expand to five days. Currently, 78% of employers give the four days off. The average number of paid holidays in the US, depending on which survey you’re looking at, is between 7.5 and 9. Do the math…giving the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is an unnecessary cost for most companies to incur. You may be a slacker in wanting to show your face and go, but most companies still work the full day with a smaller group of employees leaving in the afternoon if their schedules can be accommodated. I’m guessing if you surveyed employees, they’d prefer an additional day or two half-days in the summer, not the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Final comment – if you’re in a company that’s generous enough to let you leave early on Wednesday, remember to thank your teammates who are staying through the workday for making your early departure possible.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Don’t just complain to your coworkers about everyone else you work with — let Terry help. Email her all your office-related anxieties at Or, if total anonymity isn’t required, leave a question in the comments below.