As an Apple guy, myself, I have to use Windows at work, as well. Yeah, ugh! Lol...anyway, I'll tackle your first question.
A workaround is to create a shortcut to the folder on your desktop using Windows Explorer. Then you can link things through the Media Browser.
You can just deselect 'Use Media Browser' in the Link Media dialog box, Premiere then uses Explorer (Windows) or Finder (macOS) and you can find your network drives in the normal way. Personally, this is what I prefer to do.