Since the outbreak of the pandemic Covid19, life as we know it was bound to change. This being the situation worldwide, most of the institutions had to improvise and work from home with the available resources. With confusion everywhere, human relationships be it social, financial, contractual, labor or business, where mediation can intervene, were not spared. Consequently, mediation which seems to be needed more than ever to offer justice to people, had to go online to cope with challenges of lockdown policies and social distancing; and proved to offer important assets to the practice such as the flexibility, availability and efficiency.
It is true that online mediation consists of bringing the parties closer, while using the right platform that gives each one of them the time and the empathy needed to express their fears, needs and perspectives, in order to reach a mutual decision; but the process is not as simple as that. An important step that needs to be figured out before starting the online mediation, is which protocol the mediator should follow and how to inform it beforehand to the parties.
It is essential for the mediator to master the use of the platform he chooses, in order to avoid technical obstacles and to provide the parties with deep knowledge and help them to familiarize with the features. He shall login earlier, to welcome the parties with a smile just as he would do it if it was face to face mediation. He can stir small chats to ease the parties’ nerves while waiting for all the participants to join. The phone or other devices should be hidden by the mediator to avoid any distraction and assure a full concentration on the issue.
A protocol of etiquette to follow shall be agreed on prior the beginning of the first session and later on discussed during the pre-mediation. To decide the session would be audio only or a video conference, when the microphones should be on mute and when not, and when the screen and documents sharing would happen. Being the host and in charge of the screen sharing the mediator could stay in control of the session. He shall also manage the virtual ‘white board’, if available in the platform’s features, whenever the parties are ready to brainstorm possible solution for the conflict. If one of the participants has documents to share, the mediator would decide the way the sharing will take place, either by sending them to him directly or by handing over the screen sharing to them for a short period of time.
So here is a proposed Protocol of the online mediation; the mediator should:
Moreover, in case of a collaboration between co-mediators in online mediation, it is essential to be organized in order to establish a successful system of communication with each other and with the parties. It is recommended that co-mediators:
Covid19 imposed acceleration of digital transformation, in all sectors and industries. Empowering mediators, raising awareness of opponents, coping with technical environment’s requirements, and updating of existing rule of conduct and protocols are some of the challenges to be observed and answered. For it is clear that this practice shall not lose its demand even if the physical distancing restrictions were lifted, and shall continue along with the traditional mediation to grow and expand.
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