On a warm Friday afternoon in March, around 2pm, Manhattan’s West Village was buzzing with activity.
The lawns at Christopher Street Pier were full of friends picnicking and listening to music. So many people lined the walkway on the Hudson River, it was hard to break through the crowds. Nearby on Hudson Street, some restaurants had waiting lists and a few bars had lines, something that usually doesn’t happen until much later in the evening.
A woman walking her dog with a friend asked, “Doesn’t anyone work on Fridays anymore?”
For those lucky enough to have the option, an option that doesn’t exist for many essential workers or those in labor, the answer increasingly seems to be: not really.
At Down the Hatch, a casual sports bar on Christopher Street, Talia Shor, 37, a Manhattan real estate agent, had gathered friends to celebrate the 39th birthday of her husband, Phil Petite.
As the couple brainstormed about what to do for the birthday, they kept thinking how much easier it would be to do something on a weekday. Their nanny, who works until 6pm on weekdays, was able to babysit their 18-month-old son. They were more likely to find a large, empty room on a Friday afternoon than on a weekend evening.
Plus, they knew that most of their friends, who have nine-to-five jobs, would make it anyway. “People don’t work full days on Fridays anymore,” Ms Shor said. “Even people who officially work on Fridays usually work on the road, and they can easily do that from a bar.” Indeed, more than 20 people showed up and drank beer all afternoon.
Thanks to remote working — as well as pandemic burnout and the realization that work isn’t everything — summer Fridays are no longer limited to summer, as more white-collar workers now start their weekends on Thursday evenings or Friday afternoons year-round.
Some companies have switched to a four-day work week, allowing employees to charge an extra day for the same pay. (According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 32 percent of employers in the United States offered a compressed four-day workweek in 2020.)
Other workers take a pay cut to not work Fridays, or some who set their own schedules have designated Fridays as me-time.
Then there are those who just get away with spending Friday afternoons somewhere fun because they’re still working remotely and their bosses don’t really know where they are. For some white-collar workers, Friday’s work is usually lighter and they can do everything on their phone, perhaps with a glass of wine or beer.
“A lot of people do fake work on a Friday afternoon,” said Roland Broda, 47, an Atlanta real estate developer.
Mr. Broda always sat at his desk on Friday afternoons, didn’t really get anything done and only counted the minutes until the weekend. When he started his own company, he vowed never to work Fridays again. “I used to only work on Fridays because I had to spend time seeing the footage,” he said. “Now I set my own schedule.”
He has so many friends who are entrepreneurs who also don’t work on Fridays, that on Thursday nights they have a tradition of going to a Greek restaurant and partying until the early hours. The next day, he binge-watches Netflix or plays golf.
“Not working on Friday has been so good to me,” said Mr. Broda, who has no children. “I think the pandemic has taught us all that we can work in ways that make us happy.”
A four-day work week has become a perk for some companies looking for top talent.
Last year, Anne Keenan, 43, who lives in Brooklyn, enjoyed working for a foundation that helps young nonprofits raise money. But when one of her clients, Merit America, a nonprofit that helps people find better jobs, tried to rip her off, they offered her one perk she couldn’t refuse: Friday off.
“The founder told me they were testing this four-day work week,” said Ms. Keenan. “I was really struck by this culture that they were trying to create. They said they are confident that their employees can get all their work done without having to be in the office for five days.”
The organization takes its policy so seriously that no one sends emails or Slack messages on Fridays. And if someone is at work, the messages go out on Monday.
Ms. Keenan uses the time to herself as her 6-year-old is still in school and her partner has a job. She runs errands, works for the two shelves she sits on, has a two-hour lunch, or goes to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to read her book.
“I can’t think of another word for it other than it feels expansive, like anything is possible,” she said. “It feels like bonus time, like every week is magic.”
Other workers have taken a pay cut so they can partake in years of summer Fridays.
Katie Wolfe, 40, a psychiatrist living in Atlanta, experienced emotional and mental burnout during the pandemic. “I think a lot of doctors are now under more stress than usual,” she said. “There were several stressors with Covid, and it took a lot out of us.”
After paying off her student loan in November, she decided to tell her practice that she would no longer work on Fridays. “I got to the point in my career where I thought, is that extra bit of money worth my time?” she said. “This is for my mental health.”
Her weekends always filled up quickly. By the time she socialized, went to shows, cleaned up her apartment, and spent time with her boyfriend, there was barely a window to relax in. Now she has more time for herself and her passions. “I’m in a pottery class now,” she said. “I spend my Fridays doing everything I want to do that is too hard to cram into a Saturday and Sunday.”
Nicole Cantu, 26, started a new job in February as a receptionist at an allergy bureau in Houston. Unlike her old job, where she recruited for an employment agency, this one gave her half days on Fridays.
In the past, she never felt like she could spend enough time with her two-year-old daughter. “She learns new things every day,” said Mrs. Cantu. “Before I had half a day off on Friday, I felt like I was missing so many things.”
Now she spends her extra time taking her daughter to Chuck E. Cheese or to the creek.
The half-day break means she is less tired on the weekends and she can cherish Saturdays and Sundays more. It’s only recently been through this schedule and she can’t imagine going back to a full five-day work week again.
“I know a two-day weekend isn’t enough,” she said. “I think it should be illegal to work on Fridays.”