If you've been trying to run a business or manage a team this winter in the Northeast or Midwest, you've likely seen both productivity and morale suffer as you and your employees struggled with getting to work or working remotely, reaching customers and other key contacts, and arranging for alternate child care on the numerous snow days. And there's more to come, with Winter Storm Sparta poised to hit the Northeast and Midwest in the next few days.

How do you keep employees motivated and working as a team when winter weather or other events disrupt your usual routine? It's not easy to keep everyone productive, let alone motivated and engaged when snow keeps them out of the office day after day. Here are some tips that can help, most of them provided by Virgin Pulse, part of Richard Branson's Virgin empire, which helps companies create well-being programs:

1. Don't encourage (or force) employees to make it to work no matter what.

A few years ago I worked for a company in the Northeast during what was--back then--the snowiest winter on record. There were days it was so bad the police announced they would ticket anyone without all-wheel drive.

On one of those days, rather than drive the 40 miles to work, I stayed home, logged in to the company's network remotely, and turned in an assignment as usual. When the snow cleared and everyone returned to work, the company announced it would reward those people who made it to the office on that snow day with a day off.

More than a decade later, I'm still annoyed about it. In effect they were rewarding people for putting themselves and others at risk by driving in dangerous weather--and encouraging those who wisely stayed home to spend that time watching soap operas rather than keep up with their responsibilities. Don't do that.

2. Encourage your team to spend their gained commute time with family and friends.

One great thing about working remotely is that you save a huge amount of time that you didn't spend dressing for work, preparing a lunch to bring with you, or on the commute itself. Virgin Pulse recommends encouraging your team to spend that extra time on fun activities such as building a snowman with the kids or curling up with a good book.

It may sound counterintuitive, but one of your biggest enemies during snow disruptions is the mood-killing effect of being stuck at home and indoors. Taking a little time off for fun will help your employees stay upbeat, and eager to tackle their jobs. (Here's a look at the brain benefits of taking fun breaks.)

3. Have them tackle big-think projects.

Another big advantage to working at home is that there can be far fewer distractions than in a busy office. This is often a good time to tackle strategic projects such as writing a detailed report or five-year plan, or rethinking your organization's brand. Challenge stuck-at-home employees to take on one of these creativity projects while working from home. (Here's a closer look at how to get going on a big strategic task.)

4. Encourage them to keep to their sleep schedule.

Sleep disruption is a huge productivity killer. And it can be all too tempting for employees stuck at home to stay up late at night watching sit-com reruns or old movies. Help them keep to a regular schedule, perhaps with a 9 a.m. phone call or other regular remote event.

5. Remind them to keep working out.

Dropping one's usual exercise routine will lead to a worse mood under any circumstances, so it's great to get your team to keep up with their workouts if you can. This is especially important if your employees are accustomed to using an on-site exercise facility or a nearby gym. If you can, keep your facility open a little earlier and later in the days before a big storm so that employees can get in an extra workout session before they're stuck at home.

It's also worth noting that shoveling snow is a great workout--you can burn 200 calories in 30 minutes. Encourage your employees to shovel when they can, being careful to observe healthy back practices. Cross-country skiing is another great form of exercise, and one they may be able to do in their own backyards after a big snowfall.

6. Help them avoid junk food.

When you're alone with the fridge, the temptation to eat unhealthy foods can be overwhelming. There's not much you can do about the contents of your employees' kitchens, but you can encourage team members to help each other stay on track by posting their favorite healthy snacks and stay-at-home winter recipes. And a snow day at home is a great time to make a slow-cooker soup or healthful stew.

7. Bring everyone together online.

Especially if team members are stuck working at home for a few days, it's a good idea to get everyone together by phone or video-chat. It doesn't necessarily need to be a work meeting. This might be a good time to try a remote video-chat luncheon or party.

8. Acknowledge them for helping others.

Another great way to fight the disheartening effects of winter is by helping others--a scientifically proven mood elevator. And during a snow emergency, there may well be neighbors around them who could use some extra help. So encourage them to spend some of their stay-at-home time helping shoveling the walk for someone who can't, or bringing over a few groceries.

Then share whatever they did with the whole group to foster more helping activities. Both your company and your employees will reap the benefits.