I’m often asked about the merits of online versus face-to-face mediation. I think most of us would advocate face-to-face meetings for mediation wherever possible – and with good reason. Whether it is body language or the general demeanour with which something is said, we can pick up more from meeting together in the same room.
Budgets and time constraints, however, are so demanding today that online mediation is in certain situations becoming a legitimate part of the mediation mix for many organisations. When supervising mediators, for example, I sometimes use the phone for conversations and if technology can be used for effectively supporting mediation cases, especially when there is no face-to-face option, then I see no reason why it shouldn’t be used. More people, as the article tells us, are working from non-traditional locations (i.e. home offices) that allow for a certain flexibility and comfort through an online or phone conversation.
Online or face-to-face? It really doesn’t have to be an “Either/Or” question – we can use both to get the best from both worlds. We should be celebrating the choice that technology is now bringing to mediation.