Working from Home? 9 Zoom Hacks You Need to Know

iMac on a computer stand

Unless you’re employed at an essential business, you’ve probably started working from home — swapping the water cooler talk for Slack messaging and morning meetings for video calls on Zoom.

The latter has become the go-to tool amid the coronavirus pandemic, as quarantined students, workers, and families struggle to bridge the gap caused by social distancing and shelter-in-place orders issued across the country. 

Fortunately, the tool is pretty easy to set up and use. It even has a few built-in features to enhance the experience (and also make you look better).

Are you finding yourself using Zoom more and more often lately? Here are nine hacks you’ll want on your radar:

  1. You can stream your meeting straight to Facebook Live or YouTube.

Want to share your video with followers on Facebook or those far-off friends and family members? Zoom has the option. Just head to your account settings and under the “Allow live streaming the meetings” toggle, click the platforms you want to share on. You can do the same with webinars.

  1. You can change up your background.

If you don’t want your fellow callers to see that unmade bed or that pile of laundry behind you, opt for one of Zoom’s virtual backgrounds instead. To set one up, open your settings and click “Virtual Background.” Sit in front of a green backdrop (a sheet should work fine), and click “I have a green screen” at the bottom. 

Once you do that, you should be able to toggle through the default backgrounds (a bridge, blades of grass, etc.) If you want to customize it even more, hit the plus sign above those panels, and upload any background photo you like.

  1. You can make yourself look better.

Haven’t put on makeup yet or just looking frazzled? Zoom has you covered there, too. Just head to your video settings menu, and under the “My Video” header, click “Touch up my appearance.” The result is a smoother, more filtered look (no concealer required!)

  1. There are three different video layouts.

You can customize how video is displayed while you’re on a Zoom call. With Active Speaker (the default mode), the video will switch based on who’s talking. In Gallery mode, you’ll see the videos of all call participants simultaneously. Finally, mini viewing lets you minimize your Zoom window so you can see other parts of your screen (i.e. multi-task). You can switch between these modes using the buttons in the upper-right corner when you’re on a call.

  1. You can unmute yourself with the spacebar.

Tired of muting and unmuting every time your toddler or dog walks in the room? Zoom’s Push to Talk feature has you covered. Head to your settings, click “Audio,” and check “Always mute microphone when joining meeting” and “Press and hold space key.” Next time you’re on a call, just hold down the spacebar when it’s your turn to talk — simple as that.

  1. There are ways to fight feedback.

If you’re hearing an echo or lots of feedback on a call, there are three things you can do. First, make sure everyone is using only one audio source (they’re not talking into their phone and their computer simultaneously). If that’s not an issue, it may be that two participants are too close to each other (physically).

Your third option is to ask all participants to mute themselves, then unmute one person at a time. This can help you pinpoint where the feedback is coming from. Once you locate the source, ask the caller to change locations or log off and back on to fix the issue.

  1. There’s a safe driving mode.

Logging in from the road? Cut down on distractions by entering safe driving mode, which automatically mutes your microphone and pauses your video. To enable this, just swipe right on the screen (once you’re in the call). When you’re stopped and ready to talk, just tap the speaker button to participate.

  1. You can send GIFs.

If you’re Zooming with friends (or just want to add a little color to those otherwise boring work meetings), try sending some GIFs in the tool’s chat feature. Just open the chat window, click on the smiley face at the bottom of the screen, and hit “GIF.” Use the search bar to find a fitting GIF and click on it to send.

  1. You can whiteboard in real-time.

Zoom’s whiteboard is great for brainstorming on the fly. When in a call, click the “Share” menu at the bottom of the screen. Once the window pops up, select the whiteboard image and hit “Share.” A whiteboard will appear in the main window, and you (and all other participants) can type and draw on it in real-time. You can also share other items with your fellow callers, including PowerPoint presentations, documents, and more. 

Zoom for homebuying?

If you’re thinking of buying a home, you might consider using tools like Zoom in your search. Set up video chats with your agent, discuss contracts, or even tour homes entirely on your device — no hand sanitizer required.

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