In the 1960s and 1970s, the Nordic countries developed the concept of ‘democratic work organization’ in ideas and practice. Democracy included individual employee autonomy at work, individual participation in development of the work organization and union co-determination in the organization and governance at a company level. Employers’ associations and unions developed these concepts together through mutual collaboration. The concepts influenced practices at work, working life research within social sciences, educational programmes and eventually legislation. Today we rarely use the term democracy in relation to working life. However, the concept still has an impact in work practices. Here we present the ideas and institutionalization of the organization of democratic workplaces.