New Zoom features are prepping for a hybrid world when you go back to the office

Zoom Rooms is adding the ability to count the number of people in conference rooms to maintain social distancing, and measure air quality.

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Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome
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New Zoom Rooms features aim to keep employees safe and productive when they return to the office.


As many companies consider the future of their workforce, and whether it will exist in an office, remotely or some combination, video chat giant Zoom is adding new features to its Zoom Rooms conferencing platform to boost employee health and productivity, wherever work is taking place.

Zoom Room customers can now pair their Zoom Room with their mobile device, to more easily join meetings directly from your phone. You can also download the Zoom Rooms Controller app to turn your phone into a remote control, giving you the ability to start or join a meeting and full audio, video and participant controls. 

Customers had been requesting this change even before the pandemic, Jeff Smith, head of Zoom Rooms, told CNET. But it's even more pertinent now, since it keeps everyone from having to touch the same shared in-room controller. 

Another new feature lets IT administrators view how many people are in a conference room in real time, to help ensure social distancing guidelines are being met and that meeting spaces aren't too crowded. You can also push that information out to the scheduling display outside of a conference room, so that someone walking by can see the maximum number of people allowed in before entering. 

Read more: How to use Zoom like a pro: 15 video chat tips and tricks to try today

A major concern from customers is needing adequate ventilation in their workspace as they return, Smith said. If your office uses a Neat Bar (a meeting room device from Neat that's part of Zoom's partner ecosystem) in its conference rooms, it includes environmental sensors that let you monitor meeting rooms for things like air quality, humidity and CO₂. 

A new virtual receptionist feature lets you set up contactless entry for building guests. You can also control a shared desktop from Zoom Rooms for Touch, letting you navigate applications via touch on the big screen instead of on your laptop -- especially helpful for graphics-heavy projects. And if you're doing a whiteboard session during a meeting, you can now send the whiteboard to Zoom Chat or email afterward. 

While all of these features were on Zoom's radar before the pandemic, it did accelerate them, as customers' needs shifted, Smith said.

"We've seen a lot of focus from customers looking for how to return to offices in a way that is both highly productive and safe and respectful of workers' concerns," Smith said. "As you look at the set of features as a whole, it really is centered on ease of use, and safety and respect for people who are working through some very unique challenges in their workspaces." 

For more, check out our tips for using Zoom more effectively, and how to change your Zoom background

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