What Is a Work Request?

January 11, 2022

What Is a Work Request?

A work request is a type of document that alerts facility managers when a particular asset needs maintenance repairs. Both customers and maintenance workers sometimes submit work requests after noticing something isn’t working correctly. The notifications can either be manually submitted via paper or through a digital platform such as a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). 


Maintenance workers ensure facilities, equipment, and grounds remain in good working condition at all times. By responding to work requests, these individuals play an essential role in keeping organizational stakeholders productive, comfortable, and safe. 

If not well managed, work requests can develop into burdensome backlogs that hurt organizational productivity. Once a maintenance department falls significantly behind schedule, returning its Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) to normal levels can be challenging. For this reason, maintenance teams must prioritize work orders through an overarching maintenance strategy and workflow before scheduling them. 

Effective work requests contain five primary elements:

  • Request: Maintenance technicians, customers, tenants, and departmental members within organizations can submit them.
  • Problem: Through a digital or analog document, the requester identifies the primary issue needing maintenance. Examples of typical facility work request problems include vehicle repair, landscaping, snow removal, carpentry work, and leaky faucets. 
  • Location: If the organization has multiple facilities, the request should indicate the specific plant or area where maintenance is needed.
  • Priority Levels: Priority levels depend on how much a reported problem affects an organization’s bottom line, stakeholder well-being, or overall safety. While tenants can’t assign priority levels, internal organizers should assign each document a high, medium, or low priority level.
  • Budget Estimates: Maintenance technicians sometimes include budgetary estimates on request documents. This makes it easier to plan maintenance and source replacement parts. Estimates also help  with management approval and accounting and finance records.

The more detailed the documentation, the higher chance an operational manager will approve the requested maintenance.  

Types of Work Requests

Work requests are based on the following priority levels: 

  • Discretionary: These are maintenance tasks that aren’t mandatory. They may include projects such as cubicle upgrading, office painting, and furniture relocation in an office facility.
  • Non-discretionary: Technicians perform these emergency maintenance jobs to mitigate problems that can jeopardize safety. Typical examples of these compulsory work requests include snow removal, power restoration, and chemical spills.
  • Urgent: These time-sensitive requests include issues such as running urinals, restoration of hot water in a lavatory, and repair of HVAC systems during winter.
  • Routine: Workers perform these preventive maintenance (PM) activities to keep assets in good operating condition, extend asset life cycles, and reduce downtime. Such activities include routine cleaning and lawn mowing.
  • Non-routine: Operational managers sometimes plan special projects for a variety of reasons. Urgent and non-discretionary tasks often  fall into the non-routine category. 

The Difference between Work Requests and Work Orders

It’s quite common for maintenance novices to confuse work requests with work orders. However, there is a distinct difference between the two terms. Work requests represent an appeal for maintenance to be performed on a given asset. Technically speaking, management can approve or deny that request. 

Alternatively, work orders are authorized assignments for planned maintenance to be completed. Work requests become work orders after their submission and approval. Either maintenance supervisors or maintenance planners approve work requests. Factors they consider before approving appeals include: 

  • Available maintenance budget
  • Severity of the reported issue
  • Safety impact of the reported issue
  • Planned maintenance activities already in place 
  • Asset age (whether it makes the most sense to run to failure, repair, or replace. Up to 40 percent of asset failure is caused by age).

How to Fill out a Work Request? 

Once the maintenance planner approves the request, he or she creates a work order outlining the following information:  

  • Due date
  • Asset location 
  • Origin of work request
  • Needed maintenance tasks
  • Instructions for completion 
  • Required replacement parts, documents, and tools

Once a work request becomes a work order, it’s now mandatory. Maintenance teams may delay completing the assigned task due to budgetary constraints, lack of required skill sets, or inadequate replacement parts on hand. 


Without work requests, every demand on the maintenance department would automatically become a work order! Over time, the abundance of assignments could cause organizational confusion, overwhelm, and disorganization. The maintenance department would slowly transition from proactive maintenance to reactive maintenance. Maintenance teams must implement effective systems for stakeholders to easily submit work requests. A user-friendly CMMS can help achieve this goal. 

Caroline Eisner
Caroline Eisner
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