Zoom Video Communications Inc. on Wednesday announced new features aimed in part at helping information-technology leaders manage the health and safety of employees who are gradually returning to the physical office.
Some of the features work with hardware designed for Zoom’s videoconferencing platform. They include a remote receptionist who greets people arriving at a physical office. Another tool can monitor how many people are in a physical meeting room at the same time.
Both of those new tools could prove useful as companies remain focused on keeping employees healthy during the pandemic, said Harry Moseley, global chief information officer of the San Jose, Calif.-based company.
“In the post-pandemic era, work has changed forever,” Mr. Moseley said. Zoom’s new features could help bridge the gap between employees who will work in the office as Covid-19 lockdowns lift and those who will continue to work remotely, he said.
One of the new features makes it easier for organizations to settle in employees who arrive at the physical office. A human receptionist, working remotely, can guide them through a temperature check and other health and safety protocols if needed.
The receptionist can communicate with an employee via Zoom through a tablet placed in the physical office. The device was made for Zoom by communications technology company DTEN Inc. “People can walk up to the screen, see the friendly face, and have a video and audio interaction with the receptionist who could actually be anywhere,” Mr. Moseley said.
Another tool lets managers and employees see how many people are in a single room in real time, to make sure that meeting spaces don’t get overcrowded. Software integrated into a camera and audio device made by Norwegian company Neat can be placed underneath a videoconferencing screen in a physical meeting room. The software detects the outline of a person and counts the number of people in the room. The total is shown on a Zoom dashboard or on a display outside the physical meeting room.
IT leaders will need to deploy collaboration tools that facilitate a combination of in-person and remote workers, said Tim Crawford, CIO strategic adviser at Los Angeles-based advisory firm Avoa. They should look for collaboration tools that make remote workers feel included, and not like a “second-class team member,” he said. “There is no prescriptive way that works for everyone,” said Mr. Crawford, who formerly held CIO and senior IT leadership roles at Konica Minolta Inc., Stanford University and Knight-Ridder Inc.
Zoom in November posted a record $772.2 million in quarterly sales and has seen a large increase in its paying subscriber base during the pandemic. Last April, the company had 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants, up from 10 million in December 2019. It plans to raise $1.5 billion through what would be its largest stock offering since its trading debut in 2019, WSJ recently reported.