This article was written for our sponsor, Consumer Education Services Inc.

Unless you are equipped with laser-like focus, your time at work will likely not be 100 percent productive. You’ll arrive, grab a cup of coffee or a snack from the kitchen, check your email and perhaps get distracted by a news headline or sales promotion, and so on.

It’s natural to zone out at your workplace occasionally. In fact, according to researchers from the University of California, employees typically only get around three minutes of concentrated focus before their workflow is interrupted, whether by an outside influence or their own actions.

While a certain degree of distraction is to be expected, when stress from your personal life starts to seep into your professional life, you may find yourself losing more time than usual. More often than not, this stress stems from financial hardship.

According to Reuters, employees with financial issues report they lost around 12.4 days of work due to presenteeism — in other words, being physically at work but mentally focused on something else.

When caught in a financially tight spot, a common, short-term fix for money problems is a payday loan — especially when one’s credit score is lacking, making favorable credit terms hard to come by. Unfortunately, while these types of loans are fast-acting, they’re akin to putting a band-aid on a deep wound: it’ll stop the bleeding, but it won’t fix the problem.

In fact, many people who take out payday loans end up paying back far more than they took out due to exorbitant interest rates — for context, the average APR for a brick-and-mortar payday loan sits at 391 percent when all the fees are added in.

“Small-dollar lending can be expensive and even predatory for the most at-risk people in our economic system. We are here to help North Carolina residents qualify for a loan that will alleviate their pain and not cause more problems down the road,” said Scott Wolford, the program director at Carolina Community Impact. “We offer simple and flexible guidelines, and allow individuals to qualify for up to $1,000 with no credit check and generally the money is in their account two days later.”

CCI is a nonprofit organization that provides access to credit building, asset building, and financial services partnered with education and lending products.

“For the employees that don’t have access to a credit card or aren’t able to walk into the bank and get a loan, the Community Loan Center is an amazing alternative option,” Wolford finished.

The Community Loan Center of the N.C. Triangle is CCI’s small-dollar loan program for employees in need of immediate financial assistance. There are no credit requirements or complicated hoops to jump through for eligibility — a person must simply be eligible for benefits with a company that has signed up with their local Community Loan Center.

Once the online application is completed,which typically takes 10 minutes, their HR department will need to verify employment and salary information. After the loan is approved, applicants can expect the money to be deposited in their account within two business days.

“One of our main advantages is, because of our technology, we are able to help quickly. During times of financial stress, employees are less productive if they can work at all,” Wolford explained. “Employers want to sign up for this program because it takes that stress off the table. We are not asking the employer to be responsible for the loan. We only ask that they verify an individual’s employment and income and deduct the payment as a payroll deduction.”

Essentially, employees are able to access a small-dollar loan to quickly deal with an emergency situation. As far as paying back the loan, an individual’s employer simply makes a monthly payroll deduction of a predetermined amount until the total loan is paid off. For example, for a $1,000 loan at the typical 15.9 percent interest rate, an individual can expect to pay around $90 a month.

In addition to providing a loan, the CLC also offers qualifying North Carolina residents the opportunity to participate in one-on-one financial counseling through Consumer Education Services Inc., a local nonprofit credit counseling agency. That way, not only are individuals able to put money toward their loans and bills, but they’re also able to learn how to avoid financial hardship in the future.

“The idea is that CESI will provide support throughout the repayment of the loan so that at the end they’ve got a workable financial plan and budget, and they’re in control of their financial life,” explained Mike Croxson, CEO of CESI. “Once they repay the loan, they will have freed up cash flow that they can use for savings and meeting financial goals.”

Added Wolford, “We have found that when clients first call, we need to help them with the emergency they are facing. After the immediate need has been met, clients are able to take the time to learn how to improve their overall finances and make sure they are never in such a situation again.”

For employers, signing up for the CLC program costs them nothing but offers significant benefits. Aside from increasing the morale and presenteeism of employees, businesses that sign up for the loan program can also host free lunch-and-learn courses that cover a variety of financial literacy topics.

“For employers who are genuinely committed to serving the needs of their employees, it’s important that they recognize that the financial health of their employees is as important in many cases as their physical health,” Croxson said. “This is a free benefit that employers can offer that helps address the financial wellness of their employees and provides practical financial solutions when they have a financial emergency.”

The CLC boasts a default rate of less than 5 percent.

This article was written for our sponsor, Consumer Education Services Inc.