Creating a Space Master Plan Strategy

The key to responding to rapid growth—or downsizing

A master plan is how cities and communities grow strategically, but it’s also how companies prepare for the ups and downs of their business. A space master plan is crucial because it analyzes current data and company goals to prepare for short- and long-term facility use.

“It’s sort of like a roadmap for real estate and facilities organizations,” says Rob Terpstra, Haworth’s Real Estate and Facilities Management lead. “You don’t know when you will hit a detour, which is why the clearer the strategy and information that goes in, the better the plan.”

A solid plan can usually be developed in six to nine months, but it can take longer if additional information needs to be gathered. When Rob joined Haworth in 2013, the company had a solid master plan.

A Living Document
Even after a space master plan is in place, it shouldn’t be put on a shelf. Instead, it should be treated as a living document that is reviewed and updated frequently to accommodate changing business conditions, he says.

So what goes into a space master plan? Lots of components—beginning with an organization’s values, mission, and vision.

Then, there are the strategic plans for various business units, initiatives that impact facilities, focus areas for growth or contraction, financial goals, and a facilities capital plan.

Data is crucial—including anything from current headcount, future growth projections, changing workstyles, hidden headcount, and occupancy metrics.

Overall employee perspective shouldn’t be overlooked. Rob recommends using an employee engagement survey, which is an effective way to gain buy-in.

Like Urban Planning
Designing a master plan for a workspace is comparable to urban planning.

“I would say it’s the same concept, but different in scale,” Rob says. “Instead of talking about where fire stations are located, you might be considering where to locate collaborative areas. Instead of a city choosing commercial zoning over residential, you might think about the different requirements for social spaces and places where employees focus.”

The master plan for a global organization like Haworth has to take several components into consideration, including a dynamic changing showroom model, flexibility in manufacturing requirements, and new ways of working inside and outside the office.

In his role on the West Michigan International Facility Management Association board, Rob has had the opportunity to talk to his counterparts at other companies. He has seen the pendulum swing from a rapidly shrinking workforce to what feels like overnight growth. Speed in response to change has been key—it means the difference between attracting and retaining the best employees and missing an opportunity.

Prepared for Economic Swings
“Companies that have solid plans are better prepared for a downturn because they can adjust quickly to delay or defer real estate projects,” Rob says. When the economy quickly rebounds, the master plans help companies quickly rev up to handle a rapidly growing workforce.

At Haworth, we have seen a headcount increase of over 40 percent at our headquarters. This kind of growth puts pressure on a facilities organization to increase footprint size or use space differently, according to Rob.

The master plan has guided our company to better options for that kind of growth, including reconfiguring facilities for density and bringing in new applications to better support agile work.

“Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we make the furniture and all the experts are in the building,” Rob says. “But certainly, the plan has guided us to analyze our trade-offs when accommodating the changing business climate.”


Learn how leaders can empower employees to change in tandem with their facility with 6 Steps to Master Change.

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