Like all professors who actually teach, I have to keep office hours. Having been a student, I do understand their importance-after all, there are things that need to be done outside of class and professors need to be readily available at set times.
When I was younger and far less experienced, I also saw office hours as a time in which I could be somewhat productive. At the very least, I figured, I would be helping students. Experience has, of course, changed my perspective.
While I have not conducted a scientific study of the matter, a large chunk of my office hours seem to be non-productive. Lest someone think I am a slacker professor, I consider working with my students during my office hours productive. As such, it is not a matter of “my students wasting my valuable time.” Rather, it is a matter of other people wasting my time.
While my office is a bit off the beaten path (I am down a short corridor that branches off the main hall and only one classroom is nearby) people seem to be drawn to me when I am here. During my last office hours I had people coming in to ask directions to various far away places on campus, people coming in to ask about classes taught by other professors in other departments, people coming in to borrow pens, to sharpen pencils and even to use my microwave. I did, fortunately, have a few of my students come in.
While the interruptions are not long, they occur very frequently so that I am generally not able to spend more than 15 minutes at a time without someone who is not a student of mine popping in for something. I cannot, of course, close my door-that would keep my students from knowing that I am here. And, of course, I have found that people will knock at the door (even the door to the corridor to my office) relentlessly. I found that out when I tried to spend more time on campus doing work rather than doing it at home. I learned that lesson rather quickly.
I’m still trying to sort out why the volume is so high. As noted above, my office is not in a prime location-yet people seem to always end up here. Maybe my office is some sort of metaphysical nexus that draws people. Or maybe it is that lava lamp that my sister gave me-people always gaze at it when they come in, so perhaps its rays extend beyond the walls and draw people like moths.