Skip to main content

How to hide your messy room for a Zoom video conference

How to hide your messy room for a Zoom video conference


If you’re working from home, you may not need to clean up for that meeting

Share this story

The novel coronavirus outbreak has forced a lot more people to work from home these days, and many of them are keeping in touch via video conferencing software like Zoom. If you find yourself in that position, you may have suddenly realized that the piles of toys, equipment, dirty clothes, and dust bunnies that you always took for granted are going to be very visible as you try to convince your co-workers that you are an expert in your field.

Don’t despair. If your company (like many others) uses Zoom in order to do its teleconferencing, you can hide all of that detritus using Zoom’s Virtual Background feature. The feature lets you use a still image or a video in the background to hide whatever is really going on back there — that is, if your computer can handle it.

There is a long list of requirements on Zoom’s support site, depending on the type of system you’re using. If you have a high-end system — usually a later version of your OS of choice with an Intel Core i5 or i7 quad-core processor — you can use a virtual background immediately. If you have a slightly lower-end system, you may still be able to use the feature, but you’ll need to have a physical green screen behind you.

Here’s how you can set up a virtual background using Zoom’s desktop client for a Mac or PC:

  • Open up your Zoom client
  • Click on the gear “Setup” icon on the upper-right corner
  • Select “Virtual Background” in the left-hand menu
  • Zoom has provided some sample backgrounds. Click on the one you’d like to use.

If you would rather supply your own background, click on the plus sign above and to the left of the sample backgrounds, choose an image from your computer, and add it. And if your computer isn’t capable of handling a virtual background without a physical green screen, you will get a warning and be urged to check the “I have a green screen” box below the sample images.

You can also add a virtual background during a meeting.

  • In your Zoom client, click on the up-arrow next to the video symbol on the bottom left
  • Select “Choose a virtual background...” That will bring you to the same Virtual Background page as before.

That should do it. Now you can attend any virtual business meeting without fear of exposing your lack of talent in either home design or cleaning methods.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.