30 September 2020

NZ update | September 2020

The COVID-19 effect

I think we would all agree that this recent COVID-19 lockdown has been harder than our previous ones. I feel this is because of the yo-yo effect of moving through different levels and having part of our wonderful country at a different level to the rest of New Zealand.

Many of my peers and workmates have mentioned to me how tired they feel and how they are looking forward to just maintaining what they are doing until the end of the year, and then hopefully bouncing back with more vigour.

This raises a challenge for our dispute resolution practitioners. Not only is there a need to take care of oneself but also the impact of COVID-19 on mediation and other dispute resolution processes needs to be considered.

I am not just talking about continuing the use of online platforms but more so about being aware of the COVID-19 effect on the parties taking part in the mediation or dispute resolution process. 

Tiredness, fatigue and even depression is happening in our community caused by COVID-19. A dispute resolution practitioner needs to be alert to the signs of such issues and adjust her/his process accordingly.

Some of the actions that could be taken might include:

  • Talking about the COVID-19 effect on health during intake/initial meetings and looking for signs that it is happening to the participant.
  • Taking more frequent and/or longer breaks during mediation.
  • Understanding people may take longer to respond to questions, the provision of documents, agreeing to appointments etc.
  • Having a plan in place for when a person in a dispute becomes unusually angry or frustrated.
  • Being aware that the risk of ‘agreement by fatigue’ is currently much higher.

Equally importantly, a mediator/dispute resolution practitioner needs to exercise a higher level of self-care including:

  • Having a manageable workload and considering saying ‘no’ when requests will increase it to a high level.
  • Staying healthy, exercising, eating well etc.
  • Debriefing and/or undertaking professional supervision on a regular basis.
  • Switching off and spending time with friends and family.
  • Being alert to the effect of COVID-19 on health and taking action as needed – listening to your body.

These are challenging times and will be that way for a while. We need to look after ourselves, friends, family and clients.

Feeling blessed

This month I was able to take some time out of the office and travelled around the South Island for two weeks with my wife. The areas we visited were absolutely beautiful and often breathtaking, and the people we met friendly and welcoming. If one ever doubted that we live in the most beautiful country, a trip to the South Island will quickly confirm that we do.

Whilst currently not being able to travel outside New Zealand may be a burden for some, I believe it is a blessing in disguise by making us see our own home. One small benefit of COVID-19.

While I was away, we ran our first online five-day course which was an outstanding success. It took a great deal of hard work from the team and many hours were put in to make it a success. This was done whilst still undertaking all our regular accreditation work, webinars, membership enquiries and restorative justice work, just to name a few of the tasks our team does!

So, I am feeling truly blessed not only for being able to visit some of the world’s most beautiful places but also for having an outstanding team to work with.

A huge thank you to Laura, Kim, Michelle, Gerry and Anna Quinn (our trainer) for all the hard work for the five-day course and for continuing to do the excellent work you do every day. I am extremely proud to be part of this great team!

Until next month kia kaha and take care.

Kind regards,