The benefits of online mediation
Following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many businesses and organisations had to adapt to remote ways of working, and mediation was no exception.
In what was traditionally a face-to-face medium, in-person mediation became impossible due to social distancing restrictions. As a result, online mediation became the most popular option.
At present, online mediation remains a popular choice of dispute resolution – both for mediators and parties alike. The pandemic helped reveal several truths about how online methods of communication could actually benefit the mediation process. Mainly, that remote mediation can deliver good outcomes, and has several advantages over traditional forms of mediation.
In this article, we explore these advantages. From fewer logistical challenges and costs, to improved party engagement and communication – discover the benefits of online mediation.
Fewer logistical challenges
One of the most remarkable benefits of online mediation is the convenience and flexibility it offers.
There is no in-person meetup required, meaning there is no need for parties to travel to the mediator’s office. This can save significant amounts of time for individuals who are attending mediation, and also makes it much easier for the mediator to find a suitable time and date for the session.
Consequently, there are fewer logistical challenges involved with online mediation. The session doesn’t rely on multiple people arriving from different locations, and doesn’t require as much time off work, or other commitments, for those involved. And not to mention there is no contention with traffic, public transport, parking, and other logistical hurdles – all of which have the potential to cause delays or cancellations.
For some, traditional in-person mediation could even mean spending a night or two in a hotel and a few days away from home, making it a fairly costly and time-consuming commitment.
Thankfully, online mediation removes these logistical challenges and reduces the amount of time needed to commit to sessions. Instead, remote methods offer greater flexibility and convenience for everybody involved, and even allows for better focus on preparation.
Less stressful mediation environment
In joint mediation, disputing parties traditionally meet with the mediator in the same room to talk through their issues. For some, meeting with the other party in person could be an emotionally triggering situation. It could mean sitting with an ex-partner that you feel uncomfortable around and don’t want to be in the same room as, for example.
In online mediation, people can join the session from the comfort of their own homes, and do not have to be in the same physical room as the other party. This often helps individuals feel more at ease during the mediation process and can improve the emotional climate of the session.
In facilitating a less stressful environment, remote mediation allows participants to think more clearly, regulate their emotions and focus on the matter at hand. Firstly, because they are able to mediate from their own homes and away from emotionally triggering individuals. And secondly, because the logistical challenges described previously are removed.
As a result, online mediation can often result in better decision-making, and allows people to take part in a less stressful mediation environment.
Improved party engagement
During COVID-19, many mediators were concerned about how well participants would engage in online mediation sessions in comparison to in-person meetings. But this was a concern that quickly disappeared.
Online mediation can significantly improve party engagement. Not only are parties often more comfortable and relaxed when mediating from their homes, remote video conferencing software can also improve the focus of the session.
The mediator can also take better control of the process, using screen-sharing features to display documents, notes and other materials. This allows all parties to collectively focus on relevant topics with less distraction. Compared with paper documents or monitors in an in-person session, online screen sharing puts these materials at the forefront of the meeting – encouraging better engagement.
Good communication is absolutely essential in mediation. For the mediator particularly, it is important that they remain the facilitator of communication throughout the session.
The use of online video conferencing changes the communication process entirely, completely switching the medium of communication from face-to-face to video-based.
Many mediators actually found that video conferencing benefitted mediation sessions and the overall communication process, providing more control to the mediator and facilitating better turn-taking.
There are several reasons why online mediation facilitates better communication. Firstly, online video conferencing software allows the ability to mute participants. With this feature, mediators are able to organise turn-taking, requesting each party to mute whilst it is the other party’s turn to talk. This allows each participant to say what they need to say in an unpressured way, without the anxiety that the other person is about to interrupt. In this way, the participants can with the help of their mediator engage in more constructive conversations.
The mediator can also arrange virtual breakout rooms to control the process and speak with parties separately. When working in person, this is not always possible due to lack of available rooms and in any event takes time. Now, with online mediation, it really is a matter of pressing a button.
Additionally, video conferencing can encourage individuals to pay more attention to other speakers. When we communicate face to face, we have a lot more linguistic cues to go off when listening to somebody speak, such as body language and facial expression. In online video conferencing, it is harder, or potentially impossible to spot some of these cues, meaning many people pay closer attention to what is being said. This is of course a major benefit for mediation, which relies on effective communication and listening.
Another major benefit of online mediation is the improved accessibility it offers. Remote mediation expands the reach of mediation, removing the physical barriers that once made in-person mediation inaccessible for some people. Another major benefit of online mediation is the improved accessibility it offers. Remote mediation expands the reach of mediation, removing the physical barriers that once made in-person mediation inaccessible for some people.
Travel to the mediation site can be particularly challenging for people with disabilities, especially if this is not located nearby. Online mediation makes it possible for people with physical disabilities or poor health to fully participate in their case.
It also offers more flexibility. Remote sessions can slot more easily into individuals’ schedules, fitting around their other requirements. This is particularly relevant for people who have childcare responsibilities, who often have little flexibility as to when they might be able to attend an in-person meeting.
However, remote mediation does require access to a computer and reliable internet connection in order to take place. For some individuals, this might not be possible. Additionally, some may not be as familiar with online technology.
It is important to voice any concerns around accessibility with your mediator, who will be able to advise on the best course of action.
Not only is online mediation much more practical, but it’s also more cost-effective than in-person mediation.
No matter how an individual may choose to travel to their mediation session, it would traditionally cost money to attend in person. If participants are working, they would usually need to take a half day or even a whole day off work to attend a two-hour in-person meeting. Now participants are often able to negotiate time to attend mediation either at the start or end of their working day or even during an extended lunch break. Whether by train, car, bus, or taxi, there are costs involved with travel – especially when combined with parking. Additionally, some people may need to pay for childcare whilst they are away.
With all aspects of travel removed, online mediation offers a more cost-effective solution to traditional forms of mediation.
Online mediation services
We help you move forward from your dispute with online mediation. Our team of expert mediators are trained to help with a variety of disputes, including family, child, property and finance, workplace and civil and commercial issues.
Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you.
Tel: 0330 320 7600