COVID-19 has largely affected all domains of common life at different levels- individuals, entities, businesses, and governments. The pandemic has severely affected our court systems and alternative dispute resolution regimes.
To ensure continuity of administration of conflict resolution, adaptability to the newly created pandemic environment seemed imperative. However, it is nothing unknown that this changing nature of arbitration had come with complexities and digital transformation.
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What is the overall impact?
Lawyers are humans just like people on any other level, occasionally affected by their surroundings and emotions. The unprecedented event for most of us was switching from working in the office to working from home. COVID affected arbitration practitioners, regarding not only the activities as arbitration practitioners and business but on the whole as humans. Even when considering lawyers and arbitration practitioners, one cannot be blinded against the human element of the COVID crisis.
Work from home arbitration contains mixed emotions. For most, it is difficult at the beginning requiring quick adaptation as the profession is demanding. Also, it comes with a lot of pressure.
Is work from home arbitration suitable?
Catering to the pandemic-affected circumstances, most of the working professionals, whether reluctantly, had to accept the new digital norm. Arbitration as a profession is traditionally centered on physical meetings with clients. But now, interaction is supposedly taking place virtually on calls.
While work from home arbitration is generally positive for all, the distinction between home and work is completely blurred. On one hand, there is more time for familial obligations and an arbitrator is more interactive with his/her family. On the contrary, not all might be equipped with the culture of the digital era.
Work from home arbitration offers tremendous flexibility in terms of commitments to work and leisure and is efficient. But subtleties of human interaction and communication are to a great extent lost during video sessions. One may not get the full experience of the case and there is also a bigger risk for misunderstanding. Not to neglect the complexity of human behavior, where even the slightest slip of words may change the entire expression when perceived by the receiving end.
Moreover, building clientele digitally is not effective. Convincing a person in physical interactions is more feasible and accepted.
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What does work from home arbitration offers- benefits or downsides?
Work from home arbitration contains mixed emotions. Many have argued, given the demanding nature of the profession, working from home becomes quite challenging without family support. The need to create a balance is essential.
Most importantly, self-discipline is necessary to fit according to the new home environment. This comes with a great price as there occurs so many gratuitous distractions. Pertaining to long hours on the screen, it becomes tiring for both the arbitrator and the client. Moreover, a person is practically less interactive on a video call. The conversation or conference will sound monotonous without being much fruitful. Another thing to crib about is the technical issues that impertinently accompany it.
For the youngsters in their career’s starting phase, suffer as they fail to incorporate practical and communication skills. While those who are living alone in small rented flats, having only single rooms, and working in cramped congested environments yearn for offices to open for the physical undertaking.
The pressure upon working-women increases when they work from home. Work from home arbitration is a major setback for women in particular because to cope with family and work. It is unmanageable without being organizational and without support from other members of the family.
Arbitration practitioners working digitally from the comforts of their homes have the perk to look after their family members 24×7. The flexibility of work and home is widely underrated. Considering international matters, work from home arbitration offers many benefits to practitioners and clients.
What we must acknowledge is that in these tough times, just to ensure continuity of work, every professional will have to adjust and blindside the negatives that exist. Overall, with the right balance, everything is doable.
What about the quality of work?
This is subjective as not everyone puts in the same amount of effort in their work. Moreover, the demand and supply of every work culture are different. As far as arbitration practitioners are concerned, the main task is to subtly bring out the best decision without going to courts. The work product might be the same but what seems the difficult part is, we check on others virtually. The aura of a manager is not exercised to its full potential on the screen.
How to overcome the obstacles?
The best way possible is to make a planner for the entire day. For working parents, in particular, hiring someone to look after the kids or seeking support from other members is favorable. To be more organized and avoid distractions, is possible by setting up a separate in-house office. The traditionalists who seek an early reopening of physical offices must be made aware of the dangers the pandemic holds. Also for the ones who are not familiar with IT, take time to enhance the required IT skills.
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What are the future insights?
Work from home arbitration might just be a temporary solution to ensure continuity of work in the pandemic environment. The actual learning process and acquiring essential skills are truly possible in one-on-one interaction. In the long run, videos and virtual life turns out monotonous and frustrating. Concerns over effect on the work product are highly possible. It is difficult to reach out to clients and convince them virtually.
Thus, the future insights seem blurry.
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Working from home is the new normal globally. It brings out mixed emotions from person to person. Our key is adaptability to the new culture and creating a balance to bring out effectiveness. What is credible is pandemics bringing everyone on equal footing.