The Washington Post

At Kimpton Hotels, employees bond through Housekeeping Olympics

Company: Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

Location: 11 properties in the Washington area.

Employees: 1,210 locally; 8,042 nationwide.

Every fall, housekeepers at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants gear up for a big battle. The vacuum cleaners, bed sheets and towels they deftly wield, fold and distribute each day become apparatus in an annual showdown known as the Housekeeping Olympics.

The San Francisco-based company, whose properties in the Washington area include the Hotel Monaco and the Donovan House, puts on these events as a way to mark International Housekeepers Week.

Staffers form teams from each of the company’s hotels, and then they gather at one of the local properties to participate in an afternoon of games that incorporate the tools of their trade. Rollaway cots are wheeled in for a blindfolded bed-making contest, with top honors going to the person who can do it both fastest and neatest. For the vacuum dash, rice is sprinkled on the floor and competitors have to clean it up as quickly as possible. The relay race requires contestants to carry a stack of 20 towels and pass it off to a teammate.

The winners of these and other events receive prizes such as gift certificates or cash.

“At Kimpton, we like to have fun,” said Barry Pollard, the company’s regional vice president for the mid-Atlantic region. “That’s one of our pillars as far as guest experience is concerned.”

Throughout the country, different networks of hotels put their own spin on the tradition. For the opening ceremony of the Virginia Housekeeping Olympics this year, managers performed a parody of Beyoncé’s iconic “Single Ladies” dance. Miguel Casimiro, director of housekeeping for Monaco Alexandria, said this was a highlight of the event.

“We make fools of ourselves so they can laugh at us,” Casimiro said.

At the Washington event, teams dressed their managers in outfits made out of toilet paper, with a prize going to those who made the most creative get-up.

In addition to providing a diversion, Pollard said he thinks the event has a positive impact on teamwork when employees are back on the clock.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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