Inventions and Innovations that Shaped the Workplace: The Starting Point


Flexible hours, comfortable couches and unfussy fashions weren’t always options for most American office workers. Those privileges that many of today’s employees take for granted were unthinkable during the early 19th century. 

Throughout the years, how we view the workplace has dramatically changed, which in turn, has affected everything from the actual physical space to how employees dress. In many cases, the entire work philosophy has shifted. Generally, employees are no longer expected to work excessively long hours in cramped cubicles while wearing stuffy business suits. 

Countless studies have proven that productivity and efficiency aren’t contingent upon a one-size fits all model and employers and developers are constantly figuring out ways to find the best solution.  

Today, the agile workplace promotes a sensible work-life balance, collaborative workspaces and the freedom to wear more casual attire.

Below, we look at a few ideas and inventions throughout American workplace history that have evolved and played a tremendous role in the advancements of the modern workplace.


At some point in their careers, many American employees have wondered how the bemoaned five-day-a-week, 8-hour workday came to be. For starters, during the 1800s, the workday used to be more demanding and called for 10- to 16-hour shifts for factory workers who had to be on the clock— almost around the clock. That’s nearly double the norm today. The standard eight-hour shifts were established in 1940, after it was mandated by Congress following the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which limited the workweek to 44 hours, or 8.8 hours per day.