A day at the office – how the mediation world has come online.
Part of being able to take the leap to a new mediation business has been the increased use of mediation online. Previously mediation online was reserved for necessity and by exception, e.g. someone based in another country. But, like so many other things, mediation has become screen-based very quickly. Credit to the Family Mediation Council and member organisations like the Family Mediators Association for working hard to make that happen. From the FMA, “There are many families in crisis out there, including those for whom the pandemic will have exacerbated their conflict. Mediators have a responsibility and an opportunity to find ways to help where they can.”
Thinking back to March and those first mediations online makes me smile and cringe a little. Sharing the wrong screen, headphones not working and the ubiquitous “you’re on mute”. A few months on and it is second nature and much more professional. The tools of online working bring positives to mediation. Those who would have been scared or at least uncomfortable being in the same (actual) room as their ex find it much more manageable in a virtual room, especially with the option of breakout spaces. I should say that, even online, the screening process is just as robust; if it was not safe or suitable to mediate in person, being online does not fix that.
There is a debate about the pros and cons of mediating from your own home; a convenient comfort zone, but some people feel an invasion of their safe space and how do you (mentally) ‘switch off’? We need different ground rules online; quiet, confidential spaces, good wi-fi, full clothing(!), soft drinks only (!!) – oh and watch what is visible in your background!!!
There is also a question around what if you cannot mediate online. Not everyone has a smartphone or a laptop. What if the tech is stressing you out so much that you just cannot get in the right headspace to make sound decisions? And what about that inevitable screen-fatigue, especially seeing yourself on the screen for hours and hours.
Despite the questions, mediation online has made a massive difference; to me and to those I have been working with. It is here to stay.