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Radical transparency in the woods

By Taipan
24 Sep 2020

When you go down to the woods today, you’ll be in for a big surprise — hedge fund managers.

There’s social distancing and safe work practices and then there’s hedge fund boss Ray Dalio’s approach to pandemic working.

Dalio’s principle of “radical transparency” has taken on a new meaning this year as his firm, Bridgewater Associates, has adjusted to working not just without psychological barriers but without actual walls. As many as 50 employees are working in tents in the Westport, Connecticut woods.

The approach could only work in the ample space of the great outdoors. I can’t fathom setting up shop in the middle of a Hong Kong city park. The heat alone would send me indoors in a matter of minutes, and the pigeons would inevitably use my laptop as a toilet.

But Bridgewater’s staff decided that in-person collaboration — without masks — was too important to forgo for 2020. The hedge funders embraced the option to work in open-sided tents that allow for furniture to be properly spaced apart. And don’t worry, they’re deep enough in the woods and away from hiking trails that security shouldn’t be a problem.

On the plus side, the hedge funders now have beautiful backgrounds for their video calls, and they have the option of using the camp’s kayaks for appropriately distanced team socialising. However, there are a few downsides too.

Equipment had to be updated for weather resistance after the original tech failed in the open-air environment. Chairs and desks can easily become sticky with tree sap, and birds like to make a vocal appearance on calls. There is also the challenge of falling trees.

Bridgewater plans to head back indoors at the end of October before the snow hits, but apparently the camp set up has been such a hit that they’ll be using it again next summer, too — regardless of contagious diseases.

By Taipan
24 Sep 2020