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UT Austin, one of the city's largest employers, is eliminating most remote work

The UT tower against a blue sky.
Gabriel C. Pérez
KUT News
UT Austin has tens of thousands of faculty and staff members, making it one of the area's largest employers.

UT Austin will require "almost all" staff members to return to working on-site, full-time ahead of the fall semester.

In an email to the campus community Wednesday, UT President Jay Hartzell said leaders of individual colleges and schools will finalize logistics by early July, and the policy will fully take effect by Aug. 19 — the week before fall classes start.

"Staff members can most effectively serve our students, faculty, fellow staff members, and other stakeholders when working together in an environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, availability, and reliability," Hartzell said in the email. "We are here because of our students, and your consistent presence will help provide a more complete and engaging learning experience for students throughout campus."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shared the story of UT's announcement on X, formerly known as Twitter. "This is the way. ... It’s past time to get back to work," he said.

Some roles will still be eligible for remote or hybrid work based on what department leaders decide. Hartzell didn't share specifics, but said the roles "will be characterized by observable productivity; work that is transactional, internal, or service related; or functions that require high levels of individual time to perform."

Mike Rosen, a spokesperson for UT Austin, said in an email that "certain accounting, payroll, or IT positions" could be examples of jobs eligible for hybrid or remote work. Rosen said UT Austin doesn't have a tally of how many staff members the new policy will affect, but that many employees have already returned to full-time, in-office work.

UT Austin has 21,000 faculty and staff members, according to its LinkedIn profile. That makes it one of the largest employers in the area, according to data from the Austin Chamber of Commerce. KUT staff are also employees of UT Austin.

One UT staff member, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern that her coworkers could experience retaliation, said she thinks returning to the office full-time is unnecessary for her position. As an academic adviser in the College of Liberal Arts, she works directly with students.

"Most of my job is with students over Zoom," she said. "A lot of students ... they commute to UT, they have jobs, they have other things going on outside of school. Not everybody is able to stay on campus and meet with advisers for whatever they need."

Her team currently works three days in office, two days remote during the fall and spring semesters. After receiving Hartzell's email Wednesday, she said she got another email from her team's HR representative specifying that she will now need to work four days in person, one day remote every week while school is in session.

The UT employee was already planning to quit her job before the most recent announcement, but this has cemented her decision.

"I think everybody's aware that it's very expensive to live in Austin," she said. She has worked in multiple positions at UT since 2019 and now makes $53,000 a year. "The university is also fairly expensive [for] anyone who commutes to UT. ... We have to dedicate even more of our time to getting to campus, paying to get to campus and continuing to do these jobs where we're very underpaid for the amount of work that we're expected to carry out."

A board member for the Texas State Employees Union, which represents UT Austin employees, said she thinks the announcement will increase turnover.

"I think this is going to result in less productive labor. I think this is going to make people demoralized," said Anne Lewis, a UT Austin professor. She described the announcement as devastating for staff.

"For people with child care expenses, for people with disabilities, the ability to work virtually is very, very important," she said. "This is an economic issue for people, and it's another symptom of not having control over the circumstances of their employment, which we think is critical to have a productive, active and vital workforce at the university."

Chelsey Zhu is the digital producer at KUT. Got a tip? You can email her at
Jerry Quijano is the local All Things Considered anchor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @jerryquijano.
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