ONLINE MEDIATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
The Impact of Covid-19 on Mediation
The Covid-19 Pandemic has been a nightmare for the World we live in. Thanks to modern technology, developed long before Covid was even a part of our layman’s vocabulary, the business world has been able to pick itself up in record time. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and a host of other online-video conferencing platforms have effectively changed the way we all do business. For those of us in the Conflict Resolution World, they have changed the way we resolve disputes. In the face of country lockdowns, second waves of infection, renewed surges and the fear of accidental exposure to a potentially deadly virus, more and more people are now opting for online mediation as opposed to attending long drawn out face-to-face sessions.
This is definitely the way to go.
The Online Mediators’ Response to the Pandemic
In the UK and United States where many of my mediation friends and colleagues practice, Online Mediation has since March 2020 been the only way that many of them have been able to practice their craft. And by all accounts, they are doing an excellent job and have very happy and satisfied clients. Many of these Mediators have indicated that they won’t be returning to face-to-face mediation.
The Advantages of Online Mediation
There are numerous advantages to attending an Online Mediation with a suitably qualified online mediator, these include:
Flexibility on Time. Parties are not bound by normal office hours. As long as there is a computer, an internet connection, and a willingness to mediate, the online mediation can take place at the convenience of the Parties and Mediator.
Relaxedness on Environment. Parties are able to mediate in the comfort and privacy of their own home. Sure, child care provisions may have to be put in place to ensure that the kids don’t stumble in on the mediation session. Having said that, the comfort of remaining in a familiar environment however far outweighs any of the stress associated with having to go to a stranger’s boardroom to “face” the other side.
Speed of Process. Online Mediation is a far more focused process and this ultimately translates to a saving of time and money.
Disputing Parties don’t need to meet face-to-face. Face to face physical encounters can be stressful. Particularly where the Parties may have been in a relationship with one another. Online Mediation allows parties to properly “see” each other without having to be in the same environment.
There are no geographical restraints. Parties’ can choose who to approach to assist them with the mediation of their matter. This does not have to be limited to the area of their residence or work. On proviso that a Mediator is prepared to do the online mediation, that person can be appointed irrespective of where they may reside.
The process is flexible. Parties who are in a face-to-face mediation can transform their mediation to an online mediation and vice versa. Should parties in an online session need to meet with the mediator separately, this can also be easily achieved via the use of separate zoom breakaway rooms.
Online Mediation may have a disadvantage or two, but…
Yes, there may be some who see disadvantages with the online mediation process, the most notable of which may be the impact of a poor internet connection on the fluidity of the mediation experience. And yes there may be some who prefer the more traditional way of doing things. But, for those who are willing to embrace the new, there is an untouched World of technological advancement which is on our Mediation doorsteps and it is ready to welcome people in. Are you ready for it?