Online or In-person Mediation: Pros and Cons

Will online mediation now be part of ‘normal’ life?

 I hope so!

In the last 18 months I have done around 100 mediations  and – apart from the ‘still normal’ technical hitches of online platforms – It works well.  

                                                                                            Why? You May Ask

  • It is quick and easy to organise. Once the parties have agreed to mediate (and signed the agreement), an invitation to a Zoom or Teams meeting is all that is needed;
  • There is no need to book 3 separate rooms – at an agreed location;
  • Time and money is saved as there is no travelling;
  • It is easier to arrange over more than one day, even at the last minute. Although it is best to reach resolution in a day, this may not be possible – or convenient;
  • It is easier to resume the mediation if Day 1 does not lead to agreement;
  • Mediating in your own home will be more comfortable for some, particularly litigants in person. It is an equalizer. We are all in the same situation;
  • Online mediation can be more informal and flexible, with easy access to tea/coffee;
  • It is easy to bring a friend – or take a break to call an adviser;
  • Nervous employees can attend with their video off – until they feel comfortable to ‘confront’ (as it seems) the other party;
  • It is easier to persuade the parties ‘to stay the day’. They can, after all, be working at the same time as mediating – apart from meetings.  This is true of lawyers too;
  • There is more of an incentive to ‘try’ mediation as time and costs are lower and a party can easily log on then log off – go in and go out;
  • Mediating at home can help with caring responsibilities (though probably not with babies or energetic 2 year olds).

How to deal with the Technical issues

Be Honest with the parties!

At the start of a mediation I say there is often a tech problem – and it could be mine.

We all experience them. They are always resolvable, even if a full power cut (my experience). 

Always ask the Parties  to provide alternative contact details so the mediation can still proceed via a different medium such as a phone call.

Being prepared allows the mediation flow not to be disturbed and gives confidence to the parties the mediator can facilitate competently even when a technical glitch occurs.

                                                                                      The disadvantages!

  • Not everyone is comfortable with the technology – and may not have good wifi. My experience is that Zoom is the most accessible as it only involves clicking the link;
  • Sometimes, in workplace mediations, it is better for the parties to meet face to face, particularly if they have not met in person for a long time;
  • It is easier to observe body language in order to understand any discomfort;
  • Some worry about confidentiality. Most platforms have improved this

                 

As you can see, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages!

So for me, Online mediation should continue and be used as a viable means for mediation alongside in-person mediation.

DRAW  offers 6 hours free online mediation to London employers and employees.  This is funded by Trust for London. Contact Hollie our mediation assistant for more information. 

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