The companies on Inc.'s Best Workplaces list have some pretty great benefits for their employees. But what about for workers' furry best friends?

Some 23 workplaces on this year's list, or about 9%, try to win over animal-loving prospective hires -- and retain critter-owning employees -- by offering pet perks, from pet insurance to discounts on kibble and treats. Many say a welcoming attitude toward pets helps boosts morale and productivity.

Generally speaking, "it's not a super common benefit," said Evren Esen, director of survey programs at the Society for Human Resource Management. While reports of dogs roaming millennial-filled offices are the rage, SHRM's own survey in 2016 found that only 7% of companies allow pet-friendly offices. The number hasn't increased much in the last five years, she says.

That said, the number of companies offering pet insurance as a benefit did jump -- from 6% in 2012 to 9% in 2016, according to SHRM. That's likely because "it's easier to implement something like [pet insurance], so long as you have the funds, than bringing your pet to work," Esen said.

Here are three ways that Best Workplaces companies have taken it upon themselves to help their pet owner employees.

1. Providing pet insurance

Yes, it's important to offer vision, health, and dental insurance to humans. But some companies are also providing discounted pet insurance plans to their employees.

Criteria Corp, a pre-employment testing company based in West Hollywood, California, offers 20 percent off of pet insurance for all employees, who can then take the remaining amount out of their checks pre-tax if they desire.

Wpromote, a digital marketing firm headquartered in El Segundo, California, partners with Petplan, a pet insurance company, to offer discount codes to its employees.

2. Offering discounts on goods

Owning a pet can be expensive, with monthly expenses of food, treats and other goods adding up. Some companies are looking to lessen the load for their employees. Xima Software, a Salt Lake City based management software company, not only provides pet insurance for its employees but also discounts on pet goods including toys, grooming and food.

3. Creating pet-friendly offices

Another way companies are attracting pet-loving employees is offering the ability to bring said pets into the office. Some companies, like Choozle and Purely Elizabeth, are creating pet-friendly (usually dog-friendly) offices, where employees' pets are welcome to accompany their humans to work.

Criteria Corp became dog-friendly two years ago upon moving to a new location, and now allows employees' dogs to roam around. The company highlights their furry visitors with its Instagram account: "Dogs of Criteria."

But some companies go above and beyond -- they not only welcome pets, they create offices meant for pets.

Kurgo's Salisbury, Massachusetts office was designed to be dog-friendly -- perfect for a company that sells dog products. From treats and toys to dog showers to a dog-height water fountain to daily dog-walking lunches, this company's office was built with dogs in mind.

Other companies, like RealSelf, a Seattle based company that provides cosmetic treatment information, searched for a location that would allow them to be pet-friendly. RealSelf chose a dog-friendly building that had plenty of outside space for employees' dogs to stretch in. The company also welcomes first-time canine visitors with collars and leashes, and keeps a station filled with dog treats.

Being able to bring your dog along does have some drawbacks, however. According to Esen, the SHRM director of survey programs, having pets in the workplace could cause problems among coworkers, especially if other employees are allergic.

"It's linked to company culture," Esen said. "If there's something within that culture, where there's a lot of pet lovers, there are ways to make it work, there's just an extra step."

Wpromote's dog-friendly El Segundo headquarters, has made it work by making sure to keep a section of the office dog-free for employees who are allergic or just don't want possible distractions. Disruptive dogs must be kept at home, and all dogs who visit must be vaccinated.

"All in all, we've done our best to make sure all employees are happy with the program whether they have a dog or not," Wpromote's Human Resources Manager Andrea Lagatta said.

Published on: Jun 26, 2017