Image: DrazenZigic

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Teams have replaced traditional in-person meetings for remote workers. At the same time, these tools have also enabled virtual social gatherings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Heading into the holiday travel season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended “postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.” That said, many friends and families are opting for virtual holiday celebrations this year in lieu of traditional multi-household gatherings. To assist, Zoom announced that it would lift its 40-minute time limit on video calls for a number of upcoming holidays.

SEE: Zoom 101: A guidebook for beginners and business pros (TechRepublic Premium)

Free Zoom accounts have a 40-minute cap on meetings. In November, Zoom announced that it would lift its video call time limit to ensure virtual celebrations were not “cut short.” On Wednesday, the company similarly announced that it would remove the traditional meeting limit for the last day of Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and the last day of Kwanzaa.

This means that the Zoom time limit will be lifted starting at 10 am on Dec. 17 through 6 am Dec. 19 to enable groups to virtually celebrate the last day of Hanukkah. Zoom time limits will be lifted starting at 10 am on Dec. 23 through 6 am Dec. 26 to enable extended Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and early Kwanzaa celebrations. Zoom time limits will also be lifted starting at 10 am on Dec. 30 through 6 am Jan. 2 to assist with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrations as well as the last day of Kwanzaa.

In a blog post, Zoom explained that video conferencing attendees using its platform do not “need to do anything to remove the limit — it will be automatically lifted during these designated times.”

As part of the announcement, Zoom also detailed a number of recommendations to enhance the experience as well as considerations intended to boost privacy and security during video calls. For example, Zoom recommends that attendees require a meeting passcode for their event to safeguard a Zoom “session from uninvited guests” and reminds individuals to not share “meeting IDs on social media or other public forums.”

SEE: Holiday Zoom backgrounds for your virtual office party and seasonal gatherings (TechRepublic)

Zoom also recommends using holiday-themed virtual backgrounds. These virtual backdrops are a great way to incorporate some personality and holiday cheer in a traditional Zoom meeting. To assist, we’ve curated a gallery featuring a number of holiday virtual backgrounds to help Zoom attendees add some seasonal flavor to their seasonal gatherings in the days and weeks ahead.