City of Austin employees protest city manager's return to office plan

About half a dozen City of Austin employees gathered outside City Hall Tuesday, May 16 to protest Interim City Manager Jose Garza’s return to the office plan.

"There is definitely some anger," said Lora Lee Tucker, a City of Austin employee.

According to a memo from the interim city manager, city executives will be required to be back in office five days a week starting June 5. Starting Oct. 1, all other staff will be expected to show up to the office at least three days a week.

"What was the policy based on? Like was there data collected for that and how was it determined?" said Marna Mclain, a City of Austin employee.

It is a decision that city employees say came out of nowhere, and they are not happy about the sudden change. After working remotely the past three years, employees like Tucker say they have become accustomed to remote working.

"It has made us more efficient. We have a much better work-life balance. We're not wasting time commuting, having to deal with appointments outside of work. It has not been a struggle, and we've been able to do a wonderful job and be the public servants we want to be," said Tucker.


According to a FOX 7 Austin poll, almost 75% of people believe city employees shouldn’t be required to come back to the office.

Meira Vedros, a city employee, says they believe the response may have been different if the Interim City Manager Garza presented the plan differently or even just asked for input.

"It's frustrating. It's confusing. It's also explicitly not an actual policy. The policy, to my knowledge, has not been written yet. I just am left wondering who this benefits and I can't seem to find an answer. No one seems to know exactly who this is for," said Vedros.

University of Texas at Austin professor Chandra Bhat was part of a study in 2022 focused on remote versus in office working. FOX 7 Austin asked for his input on the City of Austin's plan to return to the office

"I can appreciate why many employees might actually be resistant to this idea," said Bhat.

He says, based on the study, he learned many people prefer a hybrid work schedule, but it is up to the employers to present that idea in a way that appeals to its employees.

"I think, at some point in time, you know, employers will have to realize that you still have the issue of the great resignation or the big quit that used to happen. Employees and employers will have to get to that sweet spot," said Bhat.