By Antonia Bowring

Covid has complicated how team members learn and develop on the job. We are not physically together, and research (registration required) tells us the social aspects of learning can help us approach learning with a more positive attitude.

With no other option but remote learning right now, the myriad of distractions – texts, email alerts and everything else going on inside our homes – also means that focus is harder to harness and maintain.

At the same time, Covid does make one aspect of learning easier. Yes, that’s right. Easier. To be clear, I’m talking about how we ingrain information into our long-term memory as opposed to capturing short-term information that does not stick around for long.

The Covid advantage improves our ability to “space” our learning. According to a learning model pioneered by David Rock and his colleagues at the Neuroleadership Institute known as AGES (attention, generation, emotions and spacing), spacing is the downtime between learning and reviewing what was learned.

Covid provides an opportunity to take better advantage of spacing. We have known for a while that long-term memory is enhanced when we space our learning. That is, we store the information in our long-term memory via the hippocampus better when we take time between learning and reviewing sessions. Hopefully, the spacing is at least a day and includes sleep, but even a few hours is beneficial.

Worth noting is the importance of sleep in spacing and in long-term information retention. The above research by the Neuroleadership Institute shows that sleeping provides optimal conditions for processes that integrate newly encoded memories into long-term storage. Sleep also helps us actively forget irrelevant information, and that means our memory has more space to retain information important to us.

In the workplace, a test isn’t the end goal; it is the need to learn something, such as new concepts that will enhance our performance on the job in the short-term and the long-term. In this scenario, research indicates that revisiting the learned material three times is ideal: first within a matter of days; the second time within a matter of a few weeks; and finally within a few months.

In the Covid era, we aren’t paying large sums to bring team members together for professional development opportunities. Yes, we lose the social advantages of these gatherings, but at the same time, companies now have the flexibility to structure learning agendas to maximize participants’ long-term memory retention of the materials covered. Companies should deliver “bite-sized” sessions spread out over weeks or even months, with opportunities built in for participants to review materials together via an online platform like Zoom or teams.

Covid has made workplace learning deeply challenging due to the loss of physical connection and limited social connection. However, I urge you to take advantage of the flexibility it provides your company to enhance learning in other ways, specifically via the spacing of learning.

This article originally appeared at