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Three Questions

For Holiday Cheer, Switch Off Zoom and Pick Up the Phone

After an extraordinarily difficult year, we are all looking for respite from the isolation and uncertainty of pandemic life. We asked Marissa King, who studies personal and team dynamics and is the author of the forthcoming book Social Chemistry: Decoding the Elements of Human Connection, to share some quick tips for making this year’s holiday season a little brighter.

A rotary phone on a table

How can employers show their employees their appreciation this year without holiday parties—or, in many cases, even gifts or bonuses?

Give them an unexpected paid day off and ask them to unplug. Work days have gotten longer during the pandemic. There is no better gift than time. An added bonus is that time off can increase creativity and productivity.

How can families and friends keep their connections strong without in-person holiday gatherings?

Picking up the phone can be almost as good as a hug. Hearing the voice of a loved one has an effect similar to touch during difficult times. It reduces cortisol levels, which are a biomarker of stress, and increases oxytocin levels. Text messages don’t produce the same effect.

We are hearing a lot about “Zoom fatigue.” Are there ways to improve virtual interaction so that we can stay engaged for months or years?

Video conferencing doesn’t seem to be helping us stay connected. In a recent study, Balázs Kovacs, Nicholas Caplan, Sammy Grob, and I found that non-face-to-face communication—such as video conferencing and text-based exchanges—haven’t reduced loneliness during the pandemic. What does seem to guard against loneliness is having five or more very close relationships. It is our inner circle that will get us through the pandemic.

Department: Three Questions