The surge of remote work made having a unified communication service a must. For many enterprises, Zoom was a lifesaver, enabling companies to stay connected, meet and coordinate while working remotely. In fact, a quick Google Trends search reveals that Zoom's surge in popularity has been a monumental one, especially if you compare it with past years.

And it doesn't seem that the end of the pandemic will stunt this growth. According to Gartner, three-quarters of organizations plan to move some portion of their full time on-site workers into permanent remote work positions by 2022.

Due to its ease of use and simplified controls, Zoom has become the go-to tool for many businesses. But remote workers can do a lot more with the communications platform than most users are aware. With that in mind, we asked executives to weigh in with their favorite Zoom hacks to increase productivity. 

Zoom Hack #1: Mute and Enable Push-to-Talk

We've all been there: a baby crying in the background or construction workers swearing downstairs. To prevent that, muting oneself and asking others to mute is a hack that most of us take for granted. 

"When we are having our meetings, it is an unwritten rule that only the speaker is unmuted," said Martynas Kavaliauskas, CEO at GPSWOX, a UK-based GPS tracking software company. "However, the most common dilemma is that when it is their turn to speak, people forget to unmute themselves and so they speak without us hearing and have to repeat everything. This is frustrating and time-consuming."

He tells everyone to enable Zoom's push-to-talk feature, which lets users unmute simply by pressing the space bar on their keyboards.

Related Article: 10 Ways to Improve Your Virtual Meetings

Zoom Hack #2: Integrate With Other Tools

Without a doubt, one of the biggest frustrations of remote work is juggling all the tools, apps and systems we've come to rely on. Trying to find a Zoom link often becomes a scavenger hunt through your inbox, Slack messages and calendar invites. Combat this challenge by taking advantage of Zoom's open API that integrates over 800 options on the Zoom app marketplace.

"Zoom integrations help teams work faster and collaborate virtually in one place," said Michaela Rollings, head of brand and content at New York City-based Hive, a team productivity app. "A big productivity hack would be to integrate Zoom with the tools you already use. There are thousands of other Zoom integrations, including commonly used tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Calendly."

Zoom Hack #3: Keep It Entertaining 

Zoom fatigue is a reality and the truth is some meetings can be long and boring. Many meeting participants may not have their cameras on, and even those who do may be doing other things. Prevent remote workers from switching their focus elsewhere by keeping things entertaining.

A momentary loss of focus isn't a bad thing, said Eugene Zhang, founding partner at Los Altos, Calif.-based TSVC, a venture capital fund. "They may be searching for an article or document that further illuminates what you're presenting about — but sometimes they're just multitasking," he said. "So it's important to make the presentation more interactive than you would in person.”

Learning Opportunities

To keep things entertaining, ask leading questions, call on people in the audience by name and frequently check for agreement or challenges to keep people engaged. 

Related Article: A New Class of Digital Whiteboards Make Virtual Collaboration Easier

Zoom Hack #4: Add a Virtual Background

Another Zoom hack is adding a virtual background. One option is to download OBS, a content/livestream software that enables you to add scenes to your background. With OBS, Zoom users can select different scenes and backgrounds and move from one to another to keep meetings fresh.

Users can also add images, video, camera, transitions and audio, said Dan Leshock, director of marketing at Highland, Mich.-based Webaround Gaming. "Within OBS, there is a native virtual camera feature that you can enable," he added. "It's a great and engaging way to present, display information or sell a product."

Zoom Hack #5: Use Breakout Rooms for Large Meetings

Breakout rooms are great for larger teams as they allow meeting participants to break away from the central meeting and report to their team in another room. Users can split a meeting into up to 50 separate sessions and enable people to enter the breakout rooms they want manually. Breakout rooms are instrumental to reducing the number of people in meetings to only the number of attendees needed.

Related Article: 8 Ways to Make Virtual Meetings More Engaging

Zoom Hack #6: Use Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the things that makes Zoom a productivity beast is that it has plenty of keyboard shortcuts that allow users to manage meetings, change layouts, toggle parts of the interface, and tweak presentations with a couple of clicks. Here's a list of shortcuts to boost Zoom productivity:

  • Alt+M: Mute/unmute audio for everyone except the host.
  • Alt+Shift+S: Toggle screen share on and off (meeting host only).
  • Alt+S: Launch share screen window and stop screen share.
  • Alt+Shift+S: Start/stop new screen share. 
  • Alt+A: Mute/unmute audio.
  • Alt+V: Start/stop video.
  • Alt+F: Enter or exit fullscreen.
  • Alt+R: Record the meeting. 
  • Spacebar: Temporarily unmute yourself.