In my department, there is an unwritten doorway semiotics: if your office door is open, you are friendly and open to students. You are available for interruptions, from colleagues or students. You are, in short, visibly present in the department, even if you sit behind your desk all day. I don't work at a small college, where the demands for faculty visibility are often more explicit and more strenuous. Some of my colleagues are only on campus for a few short hours each week, disregarding the administration's call for faculty to be more available. But most of the faculty use the open or shut door to signal when they are working intently, (or doing whatever else they might want to be doing without interruption) and when they are available.
As a part-time administrator, however, I'm expected to be available whenever I'm on campus. (And I'm also expected to be on campus more frequently, although it's not spelled out in detail.) I get the use of a windowed office during my time as an administrator, and it could actually be a pretty good work environment. Except for one thing. A very, very loud person inhabits the next door office. She also leaves her door wide open in order to signal her readiness to jump into other people's business. I can hear every. single. word. she says -- on the phone, in face to face meetings, whatever. Even with my door tightly shut (which then means people don't realize I'm inside) I can still hear her. I have been accused of "not being around" when in fact I am in here, desperately trying to think. Because of the open door ethos for the Chair and other administrators, it's important that I be seen, and be available, but it's hard to get much done when she's having a day of student conferences or long phone calls. I tried playing music on my computer, but I would have to blast it pretty loudly to drown her out -- thereby dragging my professional image down a few points, and irritating the person on the other side of me.
So now I wear headphones. (Which aren't so professional, either. My Chair gave me a quizzical look when he came in here recently for an impromptu chat.) But even so, I can hear her voice, around the edges of my music. A particularly grating, irritating voice.
It's partly her inherent loudness and partly the way these offices were constructed. But how are we supposed to get any work done? It's made me wonder about open door customs at other institutions. Can you/do you shut your door? Obviously, I assume and support everyone's need to have doors open while meeting with students -- it's protection for both students and faculty. But this then means a certain amount of inevitable noise pollution for everyone else within earshot. How do you handle this?