It may be the festive season, but businesses have to recognise the dangers extreme weather can bring and prepare accordingly.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) says that just a single degree drop in temperature costs the UK economy £2.5 billion in lost productivity.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for the cold season.

Protect your employees

The change in weather increases the risk of absence, either from illness or being snowed in. If you only have a couple of employees, one absence can be very tough.

Any entrances, car parks and walkways should be well gritted and checked regularly to avoid any accidents. “You need to be very vigilant in icy conditions,” says Jordan Maskell, commercial insurance expert at NFU Mutual. “Take steps to maintain awareness of the ice, such as having warning signs around the car park.

“Not only is employee safety vital; you may be held responsible if any injuries occur on your property and you have failed to prepare and warn about the ice.”

Keep staff informed about when the office is closed over Christmas, as well as where they stand about statutory rights. For example, pay when absent due to the weather, or entitlement to parental leave if there are issues around childcare arrangements.

You can also take other measures, such as encouraging staff to plan ahead for bad weather, or even enabling them to work from home.

Take precautions in your building

Something as simple as setting the heating can save you a world of trouble over Christmas and New Year, when the office may be empty more often.

This greatly reduces the risk of freezing water causing pipes to burst, which can cause significant damage to stock and the building itself, not to mention the potential hazard of electrical damage.

“You or your staff should set the heating to remain on at at low levels to keep pipes warm”, says Jordan. “Check your boiler or thermostat because some have settings that do all this automatically.

“Take other steps to reduce the risk at the same time,” adds Jordan. “Good quality insulation is important to protect your pipes, particularly external ones.”

However, you should still be prepared for the worst. If you do suffer a burst pipe, you will be at a real advantage if you have thought about what to do that can minimise the damage. For example, locate the stopcock now so that you can quickly turn off the water system should the worst happen.

Modern technology also offers innovative ways to minimise the damage from leaks. A water leak detector will emit an alarm as soon as it detects any leakage, allowing you to deal with it before it becomes a disaster.

Have you got enough security?

Conscious that buildings may be empty, thieves see opportunities over the Christmas period. So it is vital that your security is up to scratch.

The first step is to ensure any entry points are well locked and there are no faults in your alarm system. “Make sure any security cameras are very visible and look in good order,” says Jordan. “Many thieves will be put off by the prospect of being caught. If your cameras look old or badly maintained, they will act as much less of a deterrent.”

Having sufficient security will not only better protect your assets, but give you greater peace of mind over the holidays.