Virtual Cancer Information Center

NCIC plans to transition to a virtual workforce in 2018

​For more than 20 years, the American Cancer Society’s National Cancer Information Center (NCIC) has been a point of pride for our organization, providing hope and compassion to millions of people impacted by cancer. To reduce costs, maintain customer service, and retain our highly skilled workforce, NCIC will transition to a completely virtual work-from-home center by the end of August 2018.  After the first year of operating virtually, this change will save the Society approximately $1.5 million per year.

The decision to move to a virtual workforce was prompted by the expiration of the lease on the NCIC’s current facility in Austin, Texas. The building no longer meets the needs of NCIC’s operation. A multi-disciplinary workgroup was assembled to evaluate options for an alternative solution. The group researched potential markets, analyzed data, and examined how to best leverage the American Cancer Society’s greatest asset – our staff.

“While other physical locations were considered, it became clear that moving to a virtual center was the best option, as it will allow us to retain our dedicated and talented staff while saving money on building costs so that we can make the biggest impact in our mission,” said Kevin Babb, vice president, NCIC. “We currently have about 50 percent of the NCIC workforce already working from home, so we know we can be successful.”

To meet our August 2018 deadline, we began to send 10-20 specialists to work from home each month starting the Fall of 2017. “We are taking measures to make sure our NCIC will continue to maintain the stellar customer service we are known for,” added Kevin. “We’re confident we will be able to continue to provide extraordinary support to the thousands of people who contact the American Cancer Society.” NCIC is not a building; it’s a group of dedicated, highly skilled staff who are the heart of the service.

Read on to hear what a few NCIC staffers think about working virtually.

“My ability to work from home has made me feel more trusted and autonomous. I feel like the Society is being very progressive in this move to a virtual NCIC, and I feel we are doing right by our constituents by being good stewards of donor dollars,” said Melanie Schneider, communications specialist, who piloted working from home full-time in 2005 and has been virtual ever since.

Staffers agree that some of the best parts of working virtually are the ability to: avoid a long commute, wear whatever you’d like, choose the temperature in your office, maintain a better work-life balance, eat healthier, and exercise on breaks.

“I was skeptical about working from home at first, but it was a much smoother transition than I expected,” said James Martin, cancer resource specialist, who went virtual last month. “I was worried that combining my home and work spaces might lead to some issues. I’ve been very happy with the experience so far.”

“Initially I had a little anxiety about working from home, but those feelings quickly vanished when I discovered how productive I can be,” said Erica Montemayor, cancer information specialist, who has been working from home for more than a year.

Team Supervisor Astrid Caratzas, said, “I was worried that I would have a hard time staying motivated throughout the day, but I have the opposite problem—I have to set timers/alarms for myself at the end of the day to stop working, because it’s difficult to pull myself away from emails, etc.”

NCIC will continue to provide an extensive new hire training and continuing education. Our front-line specialists will be held accountable for meeting high standards, and regular, ongoing quality monitoring is in place. Current technology used at the center allows for visibility into all aspects of a specialist’s work day, including interactions with constituents and the overall productivity of staff, no matter where the person is located.

As a reminder, anyone concerned about cancer can contact NCIC by phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via 1-800-227-2345, or via live chat, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET.

Submitted by:  Kevin Babb, Vice President, National Cancer Information Center