The benefits and opportunities of remote mediation or online dispute resolution (ODR) are presently being highlighted by travel restrictions and working from home policies imposed by many companies and individuals. Such work practices are becoming the norm due to office space financial savings and flexible working time options so ODR is here to stay and must be embraced.
What is ODR?
Either telephone or video conference mediation. Both systems have been used for many years but the improvements to technology, especially for video with Skype, Facetime, GoToMeeting and Zoom facilities, have made real-time communication effective irrespective of location in the world. The more sophisticated technology has enabled multi-party same-time connection and thus disputes to be mediated with parties located in different continents and time zones.
What are the benefits?
The obvious benefit is the parties do not have to travel to a mediation venue thus saving on travel time and all associated costs. Without the requirement to travel the video conference mediation can be more easily scheduled and for telephone audio-only mediations can be undertaken when each individual party is available.
What extra skills are required to facilitate an ODR mediation?
A trained and accredited Mediator is expected to use all their professional communication skills to facilitate face-to-face meetings with different parties. For a remote mediation to be successfully undertaken the Mediator has to recognise potential issues and difficulties and apply skills in an alternative manner perhaps more appropriately found in a telephone sales representative.
The Mediator must be verbally confident, as building a rapport, trust, credibility, and courtesy remains a priority for facilitation. They must exercise active listening methods as they are unable to rely on non-verbal cues, facial expressions, and body language – to assess each party total engagement in the process. To maintain active participation the Mediator will have to ask more open questions requiring answers beyond ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and then reframe replies to ensure understanding.
In addition to maintaining the parties focus the Mediator has to ensure the mediation process remains privacy and confidentiality as even video conferences are not able to check if everybody in the room has signed the mediation agreement prior to commencement. Aware of the limitation the Mediator has to keep alert and watch and listen for indications of your person’s presence.
Whilst face-to-face mediations often are scheduled for half or full-day duration, an ODR will last significantly shorter and may take a few days of individual party exchanges to reach a settlement. The principal advantage is reduced costs and parties are free to continue their other work.
In summary ODR or remote mediation offers significant advantages, but the Mediator has to be equipped and skilled for it to be effective.
All the Mediators at Lux Mediation have considerable experience of ODR mediations therefore parties can be assured of the most appropriate service. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org