On a typical day at Tellme Networks Inc., Jackson snores, Penny spends time learning Chinese and the bosses and workers are delighted.

Penny, a Labrador Retriever, and Jackson, a bulldog, are part of an effort at many U.S. companies to allow pets in the workplace. One survey shows nearly one in five U.S. companies allow pets at work.

Millions of Americans believe pets on the job lower absenteeism and encourage workers to get along, according to the survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.

Pets at Tellme, an Internet telecommunications company, help workers become friends, said Grant Shirk, whose dog Penny is learning Chinese commands from a colleague.

"She can do 'sit,' 'lie down' and 'shake hands,"' he said.

Tellme project manager Jaymer Delapena said co-workers know Jackson, famed for his loud snores, by name, and some like to take the dog into meetings.

"I'll be walking past a conference room and look inside and my dog is sitting in a chair around a table," he said.

Interest in pets at work is growing, say organizers of "Take Your Dog to Work Day," set for this Friday. Several thousand companies are expected to participate, up from a few hundred when the event began eight years ago.

Heather Galler believes in the concept so much that she founded her own company where workers are encouraged to work from home and be with their pets.

Pets build bonds among workers and clients, said Galler, head of JobKite.com, where all 28 employees work remotely from home offices, along with 18 dogs, 13 cats, a parrot and a dozen fish.

"When we first started doing it, we tried to hide the fact that we were telecommuting and that we were with our animals. Then it just dawned on me, 'Why should we hide it?" Galler said. "Most people have pets of their own, and it would be an icebreaker."

The policy has drawbacks, she conceded. "I'm talking to you in the bathroom because I don't want my dogs to start barking and interrupting our conversation," she said from her home office in Cape Coral, Florida. "They can get a little loud."

Dozens of dogs come to work with their owners at Replacements, Ltd., said Scott Fleming, president of the company that deals in china, crystal, silver and collectibles in McLeansville, North Carolina.

"They have not broken a single piece, which is more than I can say for the rest of us," Fleming said.

Pet-friendly environments can pay off in a competitive job market, said Phil Carpenter, vice president of marketing at Simply Hired, an online jobs database that has added an option for job-seekers to select a dog-friendly company.

More than 400 companies — among them Google Inc. (GOOG) — have listed themselves as dog-friendly, he said.

"Companies hire in-house masseuses to in-house chefs. Why not take this step and allow people to bring a companion that's really important to them in their lives?" he said.

A survey by Simply Hired and Dogster, an online site, found a third of dog-owners would take a 5 percent pay cut to take their pets to work, two-thirds would work longer hours and half would switch jobs.

"Take Your Dog to Work Day" is intended to raise awareness of animals in shelters that need homes, said John Long, spokesman for organizers Pet Sitters International.

"Certainly we encourage anyone who wants to take their pet to work, but that's not really the point of what we're doing," he said. "We want to focus on the animals that need good homes. If we can hook good people up with good pets, it's a beautiful thing."