Zoom Rooms tweaks aim to bolster a safe reopening of offices

Videoconferencing platform Zoom has released updates to its Rooms suite designed to help offices reopen and facilitate a move to a hybrid workforce.

Zoom Rooms

Zoom this week unveiled updates to its Zoom Rooms suite designed to support businesses that continue to give employees the option to work remotely once offices fully reopen.

The question of what the workplace will look like post-pandemic has been a major uncertainty since widespread lockdown orders were put in place last year as COVID-19 spread; the general consensus is that most companies will adopt a hybrid model, with some employees at home, others in the office. While that option is overwhelmingly favored by workers, it presents challenges for organizations looking to ensure a seamless collaboration between remote and office-based workers.

That hybrid workforce remains a semi-distant prospect, however with conversations currently focused on how to safely reopen offices. As a result, Zoom said its new Rooms innovations will allow organizations to put “employee health and safety at the center” of their strategy.

“Clearly, the office workspace continues to change. In fact, more than 80% of employees working remote say they’d like to continue to work remotely ... once they do return to the office,” said Craig Durr, senior analyst with Wainhouse Research. “But to accomplish this, employees have to have a healthy, safe and secure conference room experience that meets the needs of today’s emerging hybrid workforce. Zoom is well positioned to provide this.”

Zoom Rooms offers a suite of tablets, monitors and webcams that companies can use throughout the office to schedule, conduct and remotely connect to meetings. In a blog post announcing the updates, Cynthia Lee, Zoom's senior product manager, wrote that Zoom Rooms, Zoom Rooms Appliances and Zoom for Home are “jam-packed with features designed to support hybrid workforces and help businesses re-enter the office safely.”

These include a virtual receptionist that provides a contactless entry experience for employees and building guests. It uses Zoom's "Kiosk Mode" and a touchscreen device that in-office workers and visitors can operate under the guidance of a remote receptionist.

In meetings, users can now pair iOS and Android mobile devices with Zoom Room meetings. This will allow them to access room controls, including the ability to start or join a meeting and full audio, video, and participant controls — eliminating the need for users to share the in-room controller. Meeting admins will also have access to more data, including how many people are in a physical meeting room.

Zoom has also introduced an advanced set of capabilities called Neat Sense that lets users monitor meeting rooms for things such as air quality, humidity, CO₂, and volatile organic compounds to keep occupants safe.

Zoom Rooms for Touch users can, right from the Zoom Rooms for Touch device, control the desktop of the person currently sharing their laptop screen, streamlining collaboration. Additionally, users can now send a Zoom Rooms for Touch whiteboard to Zoom Chat or email. (If it's a personal Zoom Room, the user can also send it to his or her chat groups.)

The goal is to streamline content-sharing outside the meeting room, improving cohesiveness in the new hybrid workforce.

“People are at the heart of every organization and keeping them safe, connected, and productive is a top priority,” said Zoom chief product officer Oded Gal. “As the world plans to safely reopen businesses, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and government entities, we are focused on innovating across our platform to support their needs.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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