Virtual or telephonic mediation offers many benefits, including greater flexibility, comfort of being in your own space, and faster scheduling. As virtual mediation becomes more integrated into organizations’ conflict resolution and human resources services, effective preparation is key to ensuring quality outcomes. Being remote impacts the way parties connect, how mediators manage conversation, and how logistics are handled.
Whether you help set up or facilitate mediation sessions, three keys to successful remote mediations are to:
1) Be Intentional
Establishing rapport with mediation participants early helps everyone feel confident with the technology. Connecting with each party ahead of mediation to provide information about how remote mediation works can help participants feel more at ease. We encourage mediation practitioners to remember to consider adjustments to the mediation process if any participant is new to virtual or telephonic platforms. Another helpful option to mitigate “Zoom or virtual fatigue” in a remote setting is to include more frequent breaks or plan for shorter sessions.
Additionally, reviewing logistical needs with all parties involved in mediation ensures everyone has the needed set-up and knows what to expect. Consider what questions can you ask participants about set-up and technology to confirm good internet access or bandwidth, use of video and camera accessories, and high-quality audio. You may even encourage parties to log on early to walkthrough how to use platform.
2) Think Ahead
Planning for possible technology issues prepares you for common and unexpected technology challenges during mediation. Having methods for troubleshooting issues that may arise during mediation (e.g., someone’s audio cuts in and out, or someone’s video is delayed) can mitigate the impact of such interruptions. It’s also a great idea to have a backup plan in place such as providing an alternate call-in number if internet or video capabilities are interrupted during a mediation session.
3) Know Your Technology
There are many virtual meeting platforms with a wide variety of tools built in (e.g., video, multiple phone lines, chat function, on-screen notetaking). Decide ahead of time what virtual meeting platform and engagement tools best support achieving the mediation goals. Testing your platform in advance ensures a professional environment and familiarity with the platform being used. You may also consider having tips for remote mediation ready to send to participants prior to the mediation session, including how and when to log on, ways to help with privacy, and steps to take if technical problems arise.
Want to learn about offering effective virtual mediation sessions in your workplace? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.