10 Inventions That Shaped the Workplace

Here is an excerpt from an article by Kim Lightbody for Fast Company magazine in which she briefly explains how each of ten breakthrough innovations have had a great impact on the workplace. To read the complete article, check out otherrs, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

Illustration Credit: Peter Oumanski

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Here are the first four:


The Otis Elevator Company installed the first public version of its newfangled invention inside New York department store E.V. Haughwout, which helped convince people it was safe to use.

The impact: Freed from the tyranny of stairs, buildings soon shot skyward, enabling the creation of the office tower.


The modern weekend was born when a New En­gland cotton mill with a large Jewish workforce started to close on Saturdays as well as Sundays so all employees could observe the Sabbath.

The impact: The practice spread to nearby businesses and then caught on nationwide, especially after labor unions started pressing for it.

3. ROLODEX (1956)

In the days when the telephone was the essential workplace tool, Danish engineer Hildaur Neilsen invented a clever rotary desktop device that stores contact information for easy reference.

The impact: The Rolodex proved so useful and iconic that even in the digital age it’s still available at an office-supply store near you.


To boost Hawaiian-shirt sales, a Honolulu trade group cooked up “Aloha Fridays” and encouraged local workers to wear the shirts to the office at the end of each week.

The impact: Employees embraced the idea, and Aloha Fridays eventually hit the mainland, evolving into today’s familiar Dockers-fest.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Kim Lightbody is an editorial assistant at Fast Company, where she does all sorts of editorial-related things for both print and web.

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