Uniforms. Working hours. Culture. Social options. The perks. Vacation policies. Employee relations. Keeping talent. Culture started to look distinctly different in workplaces and the types of workers who occupied them starting in 1997. That year, Wipro, the Indian IT outsourcing giant, announced it would introduce a uniformed dress code in which employees were expected to wear shirts, ties, socks, and underwear with brand names on them. On the same day, Esri, a data and map mapping software company, said its entire workforce would have to wear uniforms or see their pay reduced by 10 percent. And a New York-based men's apparel retailer called Access Work Styles would begin giving out snazzy-looking polo shirts to all of its employees.

Soon, work culture echoed the workplace status quo, notes David Berreby, the author of The Future of Work: Reimagining the Company of the Future. "People talk about the 80/20 rule — that it takes 20 percent of people to make up 80 percent of the company — but it turns out that rule is much more 40/60, and 40 percent of the company is working in an office job and very attached to an individual identity."

That raises the question: What caused the shift? The answer may be the future of work that's always on, and playing out in email, online collaboration tools, and workplace interactions. Or, perhaps it's actually the work of today.

From research analyst to research analyst — and back again

Though big technology companies are among the first and largest companies to rethink culture and the workplace, it turns out the industry that has changed the most is retail. Yes, commerce is the largest industry in the world, employing 3.7 million people, according to the United Nations. Retail, meanwhile, employs a mere 1.9 million people. Yet the growth of online shopping combined with the shrinking size of traditional retail (flattening sales per square foot, for example) has made it one of the industries that is changing the most.