Offices aren’t exempt from needing work done every once in a while. Maybe you’ve needed the printer repaired, made a standard maintenance call such as an air filter replacement, or appliances in the breakroom stopped working suddenly. 

These are just a few examples of times when a work order —  the connecting communication between you as the customer, the work that needs to be completed, and the vendor — comes in handy. We’ve pulled together everything you need to know about work order management and how a work order management system can help your business thrive. 

What is a work order?

A work order (sometimes referred to as a WO) is a document that describes in detail the work between a customer and a contractor. It’s the bridge between a customer’s needs and the work they want to have done to get them from where they are to where they want to be. Contractor work orders are the backbone of service and maintenance industries. 

Generally speaking, a work order includes a description of the job, with cost estimates that include labor, materials, and other applicable fees. Special instructions or other agreed-upon terms may also be included depending on the type of work, along with customer information for invoicing purposes. These documents are useful in scheduling and assigning work and for managing resources and deploying them to execute the work. 

You may be most familiar with work orders for maintenance requests — think about when you’ve needed a maintenance service, such as work completed by a mechanic on your car. But work orders come in handy for other industries, especially for facility management, maintenance technician requests, computer services, and ultimately any other work completed by general contractors. 

Who receives work orders?

Once a work order gets created, whether by hand or through an automated system, it gets assigned to a technician or contractor who will be executing the work. The person or team responsible for completing the job receives a work order, accepts it, and then schedules or assigns the job out as needed.

Using maintenance requests as an example, a technician generally receives work orders from a maintenance supervisor or manager. This is how work gets assigned to the right people. Once assigned, the technician can prioritize the work order against their current list of requests.

In some cases, the work order might not be sent outside of the organization if the request was created internally and is going to be fulfilled by someone with the organization. Think of the IT team as an example. Perhaps an employee needs assistance with their work equipment that the IT department can provide. In this case, your organization should define who should be responsible for receiving work orders and assigning them out. 

Are there different types of work orders?

Not all work orders are the same or serve the same purpose, and there are a few different ways to think about work orders based on the job that needs completing. 

Let’s break down some of the types of work orders you might encounter based on the need. But keep in mind, work orders can be flexible based on the industry and type of work.

Where is the work coming from?

  • Internal work order: The request originated within the organization and will also get assigned to someone within the organization. Your contractor, in this instance, is another direct employee rather than an external contractor. Internal resource planning is key for this type of work order.
  • External work order: The request originated outside of the organization. If the request originated outside of the organization, you may or may not be aware of the issue beforehand.

Was the problem planned for? 

  • Planned work order: The work was planned for and may deal with preventative maintenance or a recurring schedule of work. Routine maintenance checks in the office, such as testing fire alarms, would appear on planned work orders.
  • Unplanned work order: The work was unexpected or unknown in advance. In these instances, we can think about things like a laptop crashing and needing repairs or replacement. 

How is the work going to be scheduled?

  • Manual work order: As the title suggests, this type of work order is scheduled manually, often following a work request. This might require making a phone call or reaching out via email to set up a timeframe to complete the work.
  • Automatic work order: These work orders can be automatically scheduled using work order software. If you know when the next work order will need to be planned or collect data that could indicate that it’s time for another work order to be placed, scheduling software can take the manual scheduling off your hands. 

Free work order template

Work orders don’t need to be overly complex. In fact, keeping your work order simple and straightforward is the best way to go. 

So, what should you include in your work order? Here are the nuts and bolts sections that an effective work order needs.

  • Company contact information: All work orders should include the company name, address, phone number, email address, and other critical contact information. This is especially important if your work order will be sent to an external contractor.
  • Work order number and title: Designate a unique number to assign to the work order. This is key for organizational and reference purposes. You can also add a title for an added layer of description.
  • Key dates: Include all of the dates associated with the work — meaning when the work is expected to start, finish, and space for the actual completion date when the work order is closed out. This helps prevent deadline issues or confusion about when work should be completed by.
  • Priority level: When handling multiple work orders, assigning a priority level can help determine which contractor work orders take precedence over or have dependencies on others. Setting a priority can be helpful for the contractor assigned to the work too. They’ll need to know if your request is urgent, and they should bump your work order to the top of their to-do list.
  • Who is performing the work: Name the assignee, vendor, or internal team member responsible for finishing the job.
  • Job description: Arguably, the most important part of your work order is the description of the job. Lay it all out in this section. Describe the work that needs to be done, requirements needed to complete the job, materials required, and the total cost. Don’t forget to add in labor charges, taxes, and fees. You can also include billing and payment information as you see fit for invoicing purposes.
  • Location-related details: If applicable, include the location where the contractor or vendor should complete the work. Perhaps the work needs to happen in a specific office space, for example. Include the office number to ensure the work occurs in the right place. 

Work order best practices

Work order management can be inefficient and ineffective if the right processes and systems aren’t in place. From how to organize work orders to prioritizing requests accordingly and everything in between — establishing work order best practices ensures you’re setting your team up for ongoing success. 

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when building out your work order processes in your business.

1. Designate approving authorities for various types of work orders

It’s important to identify staff members who can approve work orders and for all team members to have a clear understanding of who the approving authorities are. Especially for contractor work being completed by an outside vendor, having approving authorities in place can help prevent bottlenecks in work not being completed on time.

2. Establish priority definitions for your work orders and categorize them accordingly

Work order prioritization helps ensure that any critical issues are taken care of prior to any other work, preventing them from getting lost in a backlog. If your organization handles a lot of internal work orders, prioritizing these requests will also allow you to guide your team’s workload and allow you to better manage your internal resources

3. Assign tasks to appropriate team members

If you’re pushing work orders through your organization and your team is fulfilling requests, be mindful when assigning the work orders out. Learn and know your team’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can use their capabilities to your advantage, making the entire work order process more seamless. 

4. Organize all of your work orders for quick reference

Once you close your work order, it should be stored with other files in an organized system. Maybe you store your work orders by request type, vendor name, or by month of completion. No matter what method you choose, ensure that all work orders are closed out and stored accordingly. 

5. Automate your work orders to reduce human errors and improve efficiencies 

Managing work orders the old-fashioned way on paper and spreadsheets leaves room for human error and inefficiencies. Centralizing the entire process using work order software or a work order management system helps ensure that your team is highly productive, efficient, and accurate.

What to look for in a work order management system

Gone are the days of traditional work orders. Written requests on paper are subject to getting lost or misfiled. Spreadsheets can be helpful, but they still require a great deal of manual entry and aren’t always ideal for moving quickly. 

What’s a work order management system, and how can it help? Put simply, it’s software that can help you organize your work orders and streamline processes for your teams. 

Known for enhancing operational practices, work order management systems are finding their place within organizations. Research suggests that the work order management systems market is expected to reach $836 million in 2026 as the demand for these systems continues to increase.

These systems vary in capability, which means you can choose one that works best for you and your organization. Not sure where to start? Here are a few things to think about when selecting a work order management system.

  • Is the system easy to use? Remember that the purpose of implementing a work order management system is to streamline processes and create efficiencies, which means the system should be user-friendly. You want to manage work orders with a few simple clicks, not a lengthy process that will bog your team down.
  • What information are you looking to house in your work order management system? Clearly define your goals and expectations of the system before you begin your search. Know what your non-negotiables are, such as having the ability to track all work orders, no matter what type. Perhaps you’re looking to run certain kinds of reports. Specific requirements identification will set you on the right track to finding the best system for you and your team.
  • How necessary are customization and flexibility for you and your team? No two organizations manage and organize work orders in the same way, and no two work order management systems are identical either. There are a variety of systems available, and some come with more customization and feature options than others. Consider your short and long-term plans to determine how flexible a system you need to fit your team’s current needs and potential future needs.
  • What’s your budget? Understanding all costs associated with a work order management system will help you determine whether it falls in your budget or not. Learn about the cost to purchase the system, whether there are individual licensing charges, training fees, support costs, and any additional monetary considerations that need to be accounted for. It’s important to know who will be using the system now and how that might grow and affect future costs. Understand the ROI of implementing a system versus manual work to manage the work orders. 

How to organize your work orders with Wrike 

For teams that are looking for a work order management software that is flexible and easy-to-use, Wrike is a great option for streamlining and organizing processes. 

Wrike makes it easy to set up request forms that both internal and external teams can use to submit project or work requests. Those forms are easily customizable so that you can get all of the information you need. 

The best part? Wrike can automatically create a templatized project from that request form, meaning that you and your team can spend less time understanding the work request or order — and more time working.