Donna Burke is the Ace of Space

As director of facilities for Imprivata, Donna Burke places a high value on humor and employee collaboration to ease the build-out process and solve workplace issues

During the first few months in her new role as manager of facilities at Imprivata’s corporate headquarters, Donna Burke sat in a hotel seat next to the employee kitchen, which served as her makeshift workspace until a more suitable office space was available. A hotel seat is office lingo for a temporary desk, an ironic predicament for someone who manages company workspace. But Burke took the situation in stride with her signature humor—a trait that tends to come in handy in many different situations.

“Space is emotional; lack of space is worse,” Burke says. “Humor is my friend, and I use it to connect with people, listen to them, identify problems, reduce conflict, and provide solutions.”

Burke joined Imprivata in 2013. In the years following, she was promoted to director of facilities, and now manages the healthcare IT security company’s 70,000-square-foot headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Burke’s unique ability to connect with people and listen serves her well in a role focused on problem-solving. But, she also stresses that her day-to-day work involves a heavy amount of collaboration with others, including Imprivata’s managers and executive team. Since her work directly impacts the company’s facilities—and thus the overall employee experience—her role has as much to do with employee job satisfaction as it does with project management. Because of this, she seeks out constant feedback from her employees, peers, and manager.

Get On Up

The prospect of being chained to a desk is a fear at most corporate workplaces. But Imprivata encourages its employees to get up, get moving, and collaborate with several design features. The company has agile rooms in the engineering department that are used for both stand-up meetings and more traditional meetings. And, a walking station on the first floor, plus several more on the third floor, encourage employees to get active at treadmill workstations.

“We also provide employees the option to sit or stand while working using the latest desk accessories,” says Donna Burke.

Imprivata also fosters employee collaboration with an open, soft seating area on the first floor that’s used for impromptu meetings and team meetings.

For example, one of her most notable renovation projects was a two-phase build-out of the headquarters’ first floor and a renovation of its third-floor employee kitchen. As the project manager, working with architects, contractors, and the IT department, she handled most details of the build-out, from converting the demo room to a lab, office space, conference rooms, and a design center. For specialized areas such as the lab and demo room, she directly collaborated on the design with employees who would be using each space.

“The Design Center required employee input because they are a creative group with specific needs such as high-top tables, specific lighting requirements, and multimedia capabilities for presentations,” Burke says. Connecting the new build-out with other floors is a contemporary styled, three-ton steel and glass stairway with a soft seating area at its base in a black and red color scheme—a nod to Imprivata’s corporate colors.

For the renovation of the third-floor employee kitchen, Burke added a few of her own design flourishes. Working within the company’s building standards—a style guide for renovations that specs out colors, furniture, and finishes—she enhanced the new kitchen with a glass subway tile backsplash in the company’s shade of red and added a new design to house microwaves and storage.

“I do get involved in the décor and architectural features, working with architects on everything from choosing colors to furnishings,” Burke explains. “I bring in other ideas to complement Imprivata’s building and design standards to make the spaces more personal
and brighter.”

Having combined Burke’s flair with the company’s focus on health, wellness, collaboration, and community, the kitchen now features five walking stations resembling treadmills and more seating with coffee service, vending machines, and employee refrigerators.

She also manages employee business travel by working with an outside travel company and assists with the relocation of new employees. “We have had several employees relocate to the Lexington area to work for Imprivata, and I help them find housing and organize the logistics of moving, working with the human resources, legal, and finance departments,” she says.

Burke’s career in facilities management began unintentionally while she was working as an office manager at a growing software company. “I did not choose this path. It was chosen for me, and I ended up loving it,” Burke says, explaining that the software company asked her to find temporary office space to accommodate a workforce expansion. “That was the beginning of an incredible career.”

Burke subsequently became the project manager for the company’s new corporate headquarters, working with the architect and a real estate provider. “They were my mentors,” she says. “I worked on the facility design and colors and created furniture standards. We continued to grow, and my career really took off. I’ve learned everything I know by doing the job.”

Burke later earned her certification in facilities management from the Wentworth Institute of Technology, which she puts to good use to this day at Imprivata.

“My clients and customers are my employees, and I need to make them happy by creating an environment that they want to work in,” she says. “Life is too short. Love what you do, respect the people you work with, and have fun doing it.”