Ringside: The People Who Ran the World

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Chris and Harv-367

Ringside was created to offer insights and advice from the leaders around us. We’ve found leadership in a variety of places, none more so than in today’s subject. Almost exactly a year ago, as we were starting to feel the disconnection threatened by long-term remote work, Chris Holt and Harvey Needham organised the RingCentral Global Relay to reconnect colleagues in a shared passion.

RingCentral has a handful of geographical-specific runners’ chat groups, featuring participants from a bunch of local territories. The global relay brought all those people together in a single, shared activity that spanned the globe. Initially a one-off activity to build morale, make connections and encourage physical and mental health, the relay grew into a regular event.

A year on, we catch up with Chris and Harvey to reflect on the progress they’ve made.

What does each of you do at RingCentral – is there a Ministry of Silly Runs?

Chris: My day job is a Customer Engagement Solutions Engineer. I work with RingCentral customers to understand their own customer journeys and contact centre needs. Whilst the Ministry of Silly Runs doesn’t officially exist in RingCentral, those that know, know! We also have t-shirts now so maybe that gives us away!

Harvey: I’m the Commercial Director in RingCentral’s Global Service Provider team, working with some of our largest partners.

Where did the idea for the global relay come from?

Harvey: It came to me while on a run not long after joining RingCentral, before the COVID-19 pandemic. I was thinking about how all the runners I’d met on the RingCentral Runners messaging group could run together when we’re all around the world. At first it was mostly just for a bit of run, although we’ve also managed to raise money for great charities over the past year as a bonus.

The idea was to use the RingCentral app to virtually pass the relay baton with a photo. I shared the idea with Chris, who helped to make it happen. He was the brains behind how we organise the runs.

Although we initially only planned to do the relay once, once lockdowns occurred globally, people asked for the runs to be monthly. It all just took off from there.

View the photos from the first Global Relay

What’s the point of running together?

Chris: In many years of running I’ve often wondered what the point was! Yet with the relay it reminded me of community events I had been a part of in the past. We’re all working remotely, across the world, yet we found something that brought everyone together. We have found something that connects people in a time when the world can feel altogether disconnected. I’m part of a team who every month throw on some trainers and go for a run or a walk and bring a bit of light to a day. We’re posting pictures of ourselves that you don’t see in a work environment and encouraging each other to enjoy the experience.

And hopefully, when the time comes for us to start meeting up again, then we’ll run together in person, maybe even have a relay in person. Everyone who has participated has made the relay day each month worthwhile. Seeing the enjoyment folks get from it on a monthly basis makes the working day just a little bit happier.

What’s been your favourite global relay moment so far?

Chris: Last summer we ran a treasure hunt theme. Previous months we had donated money based on distance covered, which is great, but it favours those who are faster. In August we instead donated based on the number of items people got photos of on their run. I spent the week before the run on dog walks looking for signposts, fire hydrants, a postbox, a car with out of state / country number plates. The hardest, and the one that few of us achieved, was finding an orange car!

Harvey: My favourite part is the banter and encouragement that we get on relay day, on the RingCentral app. People really come together for 24 hours and share pictures and stories and encourage each other. Its not about running fast or personal bests (unless you want it to be) but is about getting out and having some fun, then sharing with others across the company. We encourage people to sprint, run, walk or crawl – it all counts.

Read more about how RingCentral is connecting people

What advice can you pass onto anyone wanting to set up an initiative like this?

Chris: Just do it. And if that’s trademarked, go for it! The first event we were really unsure about. We knew that RingCentral had a running community, but whether we’d have all 48 slots filled over the 24 hours we really didn’t know. Initially Harvey was prepared to run every spare half hour where required!

Yet the results were phenomenal, it turns out lots of people wanted to run and just be a part of the experience. Before a relay happens you’ll see folks from around the world chatting to each other, sales colleagues encouraging and teasing each other. Then the run starts and the RingCentral app becomes a flurry of activities, praise, cheering and lots of running selfies. The relay group becomes your most favourite group!

What’s next for the global relay?  

Harvey: We’re open to suggestions. We are happy to embrace other peoples ideas, as long as it remains easy to get involved, open to all, and people enjoy it we will continue to evolve the relay, or just leave it as it is.

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Since May 2020, RingCentral has run 11 relay events (we missed September). Ten of those events were regular 24-hour relays; one was a running week. Most participants have kept to the 30-minute slot format, though we have some runners who have expressed themselves with some really long runs, or multiple runs within the 24-hour period.

Over the year, 235 different people have participated, with a total of 4,324 KM (2,685 miles) completed.

Five participants have taken part in every event. Three more participants have completed 10 events, and eight more have completed nine events. We also have a number of runners who have broken the 100KM distance over the 11 events.

As Chris mentioned, we’ve used the runs to raise money for charity. If you remember back in May 2020, Each runner logged their 30-minute distance and one of our colleagues arranged for RingCentral to donate money to charity via RCause, the company’s charitable giving platform. We raised $300 that first time around.

Since then, RingCentral has donated over $4,800 to various charities, based on participation in the Global Relay:

  • $1.5K to Interpride
  • $1K to Art in Action
  • $1K to Red Cross International
  • $1.3K to World Central Kitchen

As the run turns into something of a movement, the company plans to raise even more by donating $10 per runner per month, starting with our first anniversary this month.

If you’d like to find out how to make this idea work in your own company, please get in touch.

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Originally published May 18, 2021, updated May 19, 2021


Samantha is RingCentral’s Content Manager for EMEA Marketing. Before joining the business, she worked in content and public relations roles. She has worked with companies in ed tech, marketing and advertising, connected home, telecoms and publishing.

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