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What is a Work Order?

By The GoCanvas Team on September 25, 2021

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Work orders are used by field service organizations to manage work that needs to be performed for a client or on a job site. This guide explains everything you need to know about work orders and how your business can use them to operate more efficiently.


What is the meaning of work order?

Companies that rely on field services need work orders to assign jobs and tasks. A common example could be an HVAC business with field technicians going into a customer’s home to perform repairs or maintenance. The work order is generated from the office and assigned to an employee in the field. 

Having work orders ensures that jobs are assigned to the right team member and there is a clear understanding of the scope of work to be performed once on site. More companies are moving toward digital work orders and field service management software to help simplify the process for operations teams and business owners.


What are the types of work orders?

Since work orders are used by many different industries, there are countless variations of a work order that can exist. Here are some of the most common types of work orders to give you a good idea of what work orders look like in practice:


Residential Services

An example of a work order for a residential services company could be pest control or lawn care. This type of work is generated by a customer that needs a service performed on the house, as part of a standing contract or routine home maintenance. Typically a technician is dispatched to a client site and given a description of the client request and instructions for the job.


Contractors and Construction

An example of a work order for contractors could be a handyman business that is doing repairs or upkeep on homes. This type of work is requested by the client and the contractor assigns employees to a client site or job site with the tools and equipment needed to complete the work. Another example might be a painting contractor with teams in the field that are assigned locally to a paint job.


Preventative Maintenance

An example of a preventative maintenance work order could be an equipment maintenance and repair orders. These types of service businesses are dealing with work orders to assign technicians on a regular cadence to ensure that equipment is operating properly and performing routine maintenance or repairs.


Inspection Services

An example of an inspection service work order could be for a home inspection business or building inspections. These types of services are assigned to inspectors in the field that use checklists and create a report on the condition of a property for home owners, property managers, and real estate transactions.


Utilities Work

An example of a work order for a utilities business could be for an oil and gas company with production repairs taking place in the field. This type of work order is typically an internal request so that utilities companies can easily assign maintenance jobs to the right workers in the field.


What is the Procedure for Filling Out a Work Order?

Now that you know some common examples of work orders in action, this section covers some best practices on how to write a work order. Although there are many different use cases for work orders, here is our list of the most common items to include when writing a work order:


  • Address and location information: Providing the job location is critical so teams know where the work needs to be performed.
  • Designated contact information: It’s important to have the designated person’s contact information, in case there is an expected delay in arrival for performing the work or if questions happen to arise in connection with that work order. This contact may also be different from the requestor if there happens to be a facility manager or other worker that is present instead. 
  • Due date: Having a due date for a work order is important for preventing a backlog of work and it gives you the ability to predict downtime due to maintenance or repair work going on.
  • Request date: You will want to keep track of when requests were submitted, and including a date helps to ensure that work requests don’t fall through the cracks.
  • Requestor information: It’s possible that a different person will be present than the person who actually submitted the request for work or maintenance service. It can be helpful to have the requestor’s information to reference, in case there are questions related to the request.
  • Assigned field technicians or maintenance team: Work orders should always contain information about the teams that are assigned to fulfill the order. This helps companies track work being performed and helps to ensure that the correct individuals are responding to the request.
  • Instructions for work to be carried out: Work orders should always include detailed instructions to avoid any ambiguity about the required work.


By following these best practices and including all of these elements in your work order requests, your team will encounter fewer issues when carrying out maintenance tasks and this will help your teams maximize their efficiency.


What is the difference between work orders and invoices?

Field service companies are set up with various forms to complete work and document information for the client. This is often referred to as a quote to cash process and here are some key terms to understand and differentiate between.


Quotes and estimates. Typically a bid, a quote, or an estimate is sent for review to the client. The client may want to review different companies and assess which option is best suited for their needs. Once a decision has been made, an approval is given by the client and this will typically kick off the work order.

Work order. As we have covered in this article, the work order is generated and dispatched with the appropriate information to the field service team who performs the work.

Invoice. Once the work order has been completed, typically this initiates the invoice process. Invoices and work orders are not the same thing, but the invoice will mirror closely the work order with the job details and scope of work performed. The invoice is different in that it will reflect the exact prices, materials, and quantities that were actually used on the job and calculate the final bill for the customer.

Payment. Once the invoice report has been received by the client, they are able to submit payment terms and close out the work that has been performed. More companies are leveraging digital payment solutions to provide clients with an instant method of payment via credit card to get paid faster and to provide an instant digital receipt for documentation.


All of these steps take place for service companies, which is why it is often referred to as the quote to cash process and getting this right is crucial to getting paid on time and to ensure a seamless customer experience. 


Handling work orders with work order management software

Work order management software is growing in popularity for field service companies. This type of software is designed to streamline how your business operates.

This category of software is designed to support the entire quote to cash process, giving businesses of all sizes the ability to take advantage of digital tools for increasing productivity and creating a competitive advantage. While businesses have historically relied on paper to do business, the trend is to move toward integrated and streamlined digital forms.

The major pain points for using paper forms include:

  • Lost work orders. Paper forms can easily be misplaced or lost.
  • Illegible handwriting. Messy handwriting can create confusion or errors.
  • Incomplete information. Technicians can forget to include required information.
  • Calculation errors. Performing math by hand can easily lead to calculation mistakes.
  • Manual processes. Employees need manual data entry and other tedious processes to get the job done.
  • Inability to scale. Paper forms are time-consuming and create busy work that slows down business growth.


Work order management software has tools to automate manual work, standardize how data is collected, and share information in real-time between the field and the office. This type of software is designed to increase productivity, helping employees focus more of their time on work that matters and less time on manual processes. 

Want to learn more? This article shares three of the top reasons to leverage work order management software for your business.


Work Order Templates and Examples

Looking for work order templates and examples for your business use case? This article covers 15 of the most common work order templates.

GoCanvas is a leader in field service management software solutions, trusted by thousands of companies worldwide to increase productivity and streamline operations. Leverage our no-code platform for an easy-to-use work order management solution and to digitize your quote to cash processes. Contact our team to see how it works or sign up for a free trial to get started today.