I recently purchased a storage unit from Ikea – yes, that bastion of ‘ready to assemble’ furniture, which of course meant that I needed to put it together. Thankfully, the kit came with all necessary hardware, a basic set of construction tools and a set of instructions. To make it easier I added an electric drill and a husband.

I fully expected to have a lot of trouble putting it together, but surprisingly it went swimmingly. This was in part due to the detailed, step by step instructions that came with the kit, plus the fact that my husband actually referred to them. I know – amazing right!?

That got me thinking about one of the resources we often help managers and coordinators to pull together – ‘Work Instructions’.

young woman sitting on the floor reading instructions for putting a cabinet together

Work Instructions are a useful tool to have in your resource kit. And just like Ikea’s instruction sheets, they are designed to capture the step by step process for completing a task. This is especially useful where you might not do something every day, where there are a number of other people who also complete that task and you want consistency, or when you are seeking to support succession planning.

Now, I know you’re probably wondering how this fits into the whole Policy and Procedures, Ops Guides framework that we’ve discussed previously. I see Work Instructions as getting down to the nitty gritty of an activity, just like the step by step process of the instructions on how to put together the storage unit.

While a Procedure might outline general responsibilities and provide overarching guidance on a topic, they don’t necessarily capture the details, otherwise they can become redundant much more quickly. Likewise, you don’t necessarily want to bog down a daily Ops Guide with all the details of specific activities, it’s better to keep it to the times of certain activities and what happens when and then reference the relevant Work Instruction.

Work Instructions can also be used interchangeably with or alongside Quick Reference Guides (QRG’s) which often include flow charts or provide graphical representations of actions.

The work instruction could include hotlinks to websites, passwords to access a site or program, screen shots, references to relevant internal or external documents, phone contact details where relevant and may also include timelines.

Let me give you some examples of where you might use a Work Instruction.

Client Intake, including My Aged Care referral.
You would outline the steps of accepting a person and the forms that need to be completed for your organisation. This means that nothing gets missed out and you have consistency across your team.

Completing a staff roster.
This is great to have on hand if your roster clerk is on leave, which supports continuity and contingency planning.

Ordering food for the meals on wheels program.
If you’re in a remote area there can be so many steps in this task, including how to identify the required food items for the week, fortnight or month (hint – do a stocktake), noting the day of submitting specific orders to the relevant supplier, identifying who the delivering agent is and when you need to contact them, etc. Again, this is important for continuity planning, especially when the cook is away.

Arranging a client activity.
If you are arranging an activity that involves vulnerable clients, you might want to ensure that nothing gets missed. Has the risk assessment been completed? Does everyone have their medication or aids and equipment? Do you have the right tools or materials for the activity? And so on.

Using a specific electronic program or system.
With so many different programs that are used by individual organisations, from completing information in a client management system, to uploading data into Dex, to creating a flyer using a program such as Canva, it’s not easy for staff to remember everything. The Work Instruction is a great reminder and cuts down on time spent trying to remember how to use the program.

Completing a task such as collecting data for recording incidents of physical restraint so that this can be entered in the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program.
You don’t always need to create your own Work Instructions or QRG’s. Some have been already developed for you so take the time to identify these, download and store them somewhere relevant.

How to easily create a Work Instruction

Of course, it takes time and effort to create a Work Instruction and I know that you are all busy people with a myriad of demands on that time. So, how do you carve out 20-30 minutes to develop a straightforward, easy to read Work Instruction?

Do it on the fly!

By this, I mean don’t set out to create the Work Instruction as a separate task; create it while you are completing the task in real time. You’ll find you don’t miss out on any individual steps along the way. Of course, this might end up making your task longer on that specific occasion, however from then on you have the Work Instruction to refer to, so you’re not going to miss a step. Plus, you may be able to hand over the responsibility of completing the task to someone else now that they can follow the Work Instruction you've created.

If you are leaving, it’s also a lot easier to complete a handover of your role when you can hand the new person a folder of Work Instructions and simply walk through where to find something. It also means they don’t have to spend their time writing furiously in a notebook during their orientation.

So have a look around you and consider what tasks you can document as a Work Instruction.

For those organisations who are Paid Members of the Total Quality Package resource hub you’ll find an example Work Instruction for Client Intake under the ‘Care and Case Management' section and a blank template under ‘Operations Guides & Resources'.

If you’re not yet a member of the resource hub what are you waiting for?

We have a range of in-demand resources including up to date Policies and Procedures, industry-specific ToolBox Talks and Info Shares, a growing range of Assessment and Care Planning Guides and many other resources that are designed to assist your organisation to remain compliant against industry reforms and provide quality care in a cost-effective way.

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