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Next to Godliness

In Focus
NAME:Karolina Sadalska
COMPANY:Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
POSITION:Executive Housekeeper
LOCATION:Sydney, Australia
Behind the stunning facade of the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour is an invisible force dedicated to keeping the hotel looking its best. Executive Housekeeper Karolina Sadalska pulls back the curtain.

The expectation of any hotel guest is that upon entering, their room will be clean and tidy. For guests of luxury hotels such as the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, Accor’s flagship Australian hotel, the room must be immaculate.

This considerable duty falls upon the shoulders of Karolina Sadalska, the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour’s Executive Housekeeper. While others have the duty of keeping the myriad cogs of the five-star hotel turning 24 hours a day, Sadalska’s role is to make sure those cogs are spotless.

Behind the Scenes

“When you’re working in a five-star property, there are so many standards and procedures to follow,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “That’s why my team are room attendants, not cleaners.”

They’re also invisible. They must be, to provide the kind of quality service guests of the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour – or any hotel in the portfolio of Sofitel owner Accor – expects. Sadalska’s team works tirelessly to ensure rooms at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour look photoshoot-ready at a moment’s notice.

“We have 590 rooms, and all must be treated with the same high level of care. The smallest details must be looked after,” Sadalska says.

“Guests are welcomed by the doorman, they’re checked in by reception, they’re escorted to the lift by a porter. There’s the chance for a chat. When they get to their room, we’ve already done our job and we’re gone.”

It may seem like a thankless role, but Sadalska says it’s far from it.

“When feedback comes through, it’s that the rooms were immaculate, but unfortunately our names aren’t mentioned, as they might be in the case of reception staff,” she says.

“But almost 90 percent of guests rate our service nine or 10 out of 10, and that’s the real reflection of our performance.”

“We always strive to be better, to be that world-class hotel everyone can look up to.”

Sadalska started her career with Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour seven years ago, so even though she now leads a team of 160 (a combination of in-house staff and contractors), she knows all too well the hardships of the front line.

“I understand my team and what they need in their daily job. I’ve basically done everything there is to do in housekeeping, and that experience is absolutely necessary in a role like mine,” Sadalska says.

Despite the luxuriant surroundings of the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, the work for Sadalska’s team is no less tough.

“It’s hard work, very difficult and demanding on your body. It’s not just about cleaning rooms. We do so many things for guests,” she explains

This goes beyond rooms to the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour’s restaurants, bars, the spa and the rooftop pool (voted Best Hotel Pool in Australia at the 2023 Travel + Leisure Luxury Awards). These are the public faces of the hotel, and Sadalska’s team must ensure they look their best at all times.

The team’s thorough understanding of modern luxury has long been recognized within the industry. In 2023 alone, Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour took home seven industry awards, including cracking the top 10 Best City Hotels at the Travel + Leisure Luxury Awards.

Add to this the 590 rooms, all of which need to be cleaned, checked and released for guests multiple times a day, there’s never a dull moment behind the curtain.

“We always strive to be better, to be that world-class hotel everyone can look up to,” Sadalska says.

Taking the Initiative

Innovation is the pathway to success in this pursuit, especially when providing Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour’s level of luxury.

“Just after the pandemic we developed an initiative where guests were encouraged to forego the housekeeping service if they felt it wasn’t required, and for doing so they’d receive 500 points towards the Accor Loyalty Program,” Sadalska adds.

The plan was a hit.

“Our workload was drastically reduced, guests were happy because they were accruing points for future stays, and it was great from a sustainability perspective,” she says.

Sadalska also understands the importance of a strong and supportive team culture, which she was given the freedom to build from scratch.

“Our team is very engaged and active in this hotel, and that’s something we’re very proud of.”

“Our team is very engaged and active in this hotel, and that’s something we’re very proud of,” she says. “We’re also the hotel’s Heartist champion two years in a row.”

Creating ‘Heartist’ moments for guests and colleagues is a constant competition for the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour staff.

“It’s about going the extra mile to make someone’s stay more enjoyable, so organizing something nice or adding little touches to their rooms on special occasions, and also about celebrating amongst our team,” she adds.

Last year, Sadalska’s team achieved 196 Heartist moments, smashing its target of 60.

“I work with people who have been here for the seven years the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour has been operating. People love working here because the environment is supportive, professional and fun.”

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